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Neopterin levels during the early phase of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C virus, or hepatitis B virus infection


  • The studies have been supported by the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Langen, Germany.

Dr C. Micha Nübling, Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse 51-59, 63225 Langen, Germany; e-mail:


BACKGROUND: A study was conducted to assess the diagnostic sensitivity of neopterin screening of blood donors with regard to the detection of window-phase specimens of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: In total, 1002 diagnostic window-phase specimens from 98 seroconversion panels (29 HIV-1, 52 HCV, and 17 HBV) were analyzed with viral antigen detection, viral nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT), and neopterin quantitation assays. The study was completed by the analysis of 92 anti-hepatitis B core antigen (HBc)-reactive and 103 alanine aminotransferase (ALT)-elevated blood donor specimens.

RESULTS: A significant association between elevated neopterin concentrations and the very early phase of HIV-1 infection was found. No significant correlation could be observed between neopterin levels and the early phase of HCV or HBV infection. Neopterin concentration was not increased in specimens from blood donors with anti-HBc reactivity or ALT elevation.

CONCLUSIONS: Neopterin screening of blood donors may identify window-phase cases of HIV, but not of HCV or HBV infection. The diagnostic sensitivity of neopterin screening during the HIV window phase is similar to that of the p24 antigen test. With the introduction of viral NATs in blood screening, there is no additional benefit of neopterin screening with regard to the three blood-borne viruses HIV, HCV, and HBV. Acute phases of other infectious agents, however, have been reported to be detected by neopterin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.