HIV has been around for years, and while it can be managed, science has continued in its search to find a permanent cure for this deadly virus. However, while people wait on that, they still need to be tested. Sadly, not many procedures are available for testing HIV. While HIV tests have almost a hundred percent reliability, finding how accurate these tests are is an important thing to consider. In the bid to use the best test, the ELISA test has remained. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is one of the ways to test HIV, even after 20 years of being in use.
What is an ELISA test?
An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, as popularly called ELISA, is a test that helps detect and measure antibodies in the human blood. These tests are utilized to determine if the body has antibodies connected to certain infectious conditions. These tests can help to find out if an animal or human is infected through direct detection.
The accuracy of the ELISA test
Blood tests are the common ways of detecting HIV in the body. ELISA tests patients’ blood samples to detect antibodies. Performing ELISA may also require the collection of oral fluid (not saliva) from the cheek and gum. ELISA tests carried out using oral fluid are considered sensitive blood tests. Additionally, during ELISA tests, a urine sample may be used. However, they are seen as not having more accuracy than tests conducted using oral fluid or blood.
After the body’s exposure to HIV, it requires a certain amount of time for the production of antibodies in the body. However, people produce antibodies at a different rate. The window period for antibody tests ranges from three weeks to three months. Up to 95%, many people will make antibodies after six weeks, while 99% will do the same after three months.
A positive (reactive) ELISA for every sample must use a follow-up (confirmatory) test. These samples may include the Western blot test for diagnosing positive results. However, it is not unusual to come up with a false negative or false-positive result. They may occur if there is no development of antibodies to HIV or laboratory error. When Elisa is combined with the confirmatory Western blot test, it has 99.9% accuracy.
Testing HIV using ELISA
An HIV test helps detect HIV antibodies or antigens or the genetic material of HIV in the blood. It helps to indicate the presence of an HIV infection (positive) in the blood. After an individual may have been initially infected, the appearance of HIV antibodies or antigens takes about four to twelve weeks. One of the most effective ways to test HIV is using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
Usually, the test is the first when it comes to the detection of HIV infection. They often repeat these tests for diagnosis confirmation if there is a presence (positive) of antibodies to HIV. If ELISA does not come out as positive, it does not usually require undergoing other kinds of tests. False results from the ELISA test are not usually common after a few weeks of an indication becomes a carrier of the infection.
What do ELISA test results mean?
The report of the ELISA tests differs based on the laboratory handling the analysis. Additionally, the condition of the test may also make it vary. Whatever the factors are, Doctors should explain and discuss the results, including their meaning. If the results come out positive, it will mean you are free from the condition. Results at times may be false positives and false negatives.
When you have a false-positive result, it’s an indication that you are having this condition, even when you don’t have it for real. A result with false-negative means you are not having the condition, even while you have it for real. Due to this reason, you may be required to take another ELISA test again in a few weeks. Alternatively, you may be required to take more sensitive tests for confirmation or to refute the result.
The benefits of the ELISA test
- Simple operation
- Easily automated
- Convenient for HIV testing
- High sensitivity
- It is favorable when compared to other test methods such as radioimmunoassay (RIA) because they do not require radioactive substances or a costly apparatus for radiation counting)
The HIV infection can live in the body for many years, even without the carrier knowing. The symptoms may fail to show earlier than expected and can even take up to a decade. This does not mean the person can not transmit the infection to others. ELISA tests are, known to provide maximum accuracy in the detection of antigens and antibodies. They have been shown to provide an actual result of tests, except in case of laboratory error.