Access to hepatitis B viral load (VL) testing is poor in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) due to economic and logistical reasons.
To demonstrate the feasibility of testing dried blood spots (DBS) for hepatitis B virus (HBV) VL in a laboratory in Lusaka, Zambia, and to compare HBV VLs between DBS and plasma samples.
Paired plasma and DBS samples from HIV-HBV co-infected Zambian adults were analyzed for HBV VL using the COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan HBV test (Version 2.0) and for HBV genotype by direct sequencing. We used Bland-Altman analysis to compare VLs between sample types and by genotype. Logistic regression analysis was conducted to assess the probability of an undetectable DBS result by plasma VL.
Among 68 participants, median age was 34 years, 61.8% were men, and median plasma HBV VL was 3.98 log IU/ml (interquartile range, 2.04–5.95). Among sequenced viruses, 28 were genotype A1 and 27 were genotype E. Bland–Altman plots suggested strong agreement between DBS and plasma VLs. DBS VLs were on average 1.59 log IU/ml lower than plasma with 95% limits of agreement of −2.40 to −0.83 log IU/ml. At a plasma VL ≥2,000 IU/ml, the probability of an undetectable DBS result was 1.8% (95% CI: 0.5–6.6). At plasma VL ≥20,000 IU/ml this probability reduced to 0.2% (95% CI: 0.03–1.7).