Many studies have demonstrated the utility of the dried blood spot (DBS) or dried plasma/serum spot (DSS) method for serological and molecular diagnosis of HIV infection. Here, we report on the description of a serotyping assay performed on DSS, and its application to a national surveillance program of HIV variants. We combined serotyping assays that we developed previously to discriminate between HIV-1 and HIV-2, between HIV-1 group O and HIV-1 group M, and between B and non-B subtypes of HIV-1 group M. The assays are based on antibody binding to either the immunodominant epitope of gp41 or the V3 domain of gp120 of these various types, groups and subtypes. Therefore, a unique enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) format applied to serum eluted from DSS allowed the simultaneous discrimination between infections caused by HIV-1 B, HIV-1 non-B, HIV-1 group O, and HIV-2. Together, this serotyping assay and an immunoassay for recent infection were used for a virological surveillance linked to the anonymous mandatory notification of HIV infection in France. The preliminary results of this virological surveillance allowed us to obtain estimates of the prevalence of the rare variants HIV-2 and HIV-1 group O. It also allowed identification of the two first cases of M/O dual infections reported outside the endemic group O region of the western part of equatorial Africa, and showed that non-B subtypes circulate widely in France, almost 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2003 being due to these variants.
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