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False positive elisa in a pregnant mother twice; how to determine the etiology

Feb 15, 2009

I am a pediatrician and I came across a newborn born to a mother whose HIV elisa was positive but the western blot was negative. In talking with the mother the same thing was true for her prior pregnancy 2 years earlier(Elisa positive; Western blot negative). From reading other responses on your site I understand that this can occur with pregnancy. My question is how would one determine the etiology of the false positive elisa so the parents can be informed and reassured. Thank you

Response from Dr. Holodniy

You will likely never be able to determine why the screening test was positive or what specific antibodies may have caused this result. As you state, this is a known phenomenon and a negative confirmatory antibody test is excellent reassurance.

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