To standardize human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) antibody assays for application to asymptomatic infection, a blinded comparison was done of seven immunofluorescence assays and ELISAs. Five experienced laboratories tested a serum panel from 143 subjects in 4 diagnostic groups. Except for a minor capsid protein ELISA, the other six tests detected HHV-8 antibodies most frequently in classic (80%–100%) and AIDS-related (67%–91%) Kaposi's sarcoma, followed by human immunodeficiency virus-seropositive patients (27%–60%), and least frequently in healthy blood donors (0–29%). However, these six assays frequently disagreed on individual sera, particularly for blood donor samples. Current HHV-8 antibody tests have uncertain accuracy in asymptomatic HHV-8 infection and may require correlation with viral protein or nucleic acid detection. Antibody assays are useful for epidemiologic investigations, but the absolute prevalence of HHV-8 infection in the United States cannot yet be determined.

Author notes

Presented in part: 4th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Washington, DC, 22–26 January 1997 (abstract 699).
Additional members are Dharam Ablashi, Chris Boshoff, Steven A. Miles, Julie Sheldon, and Robin A. Weiss.