p24 antigen

  • p24 antigen is a viral protein that makes up most of the viral core.
  • Serum concentrations of p24 antigen are high in the first few weeks after infection; tests sensitive to p24 antigen are therefore useful for diagnosing very early infection when antibody levels are still low.

One distinctive HIV antigen is a viral protein called p24, a structural protein that makes up most of the HIV viral core, or 'capsid'. High levels of p24 are present in the blood serum of newly infected individuals during the short period between infection and seroconversion, making p24 antigen assays useful in diagnosing primary HIV infection.

Antibodies to p24 are produced during seroconversion, rendering p24 antigen undetectable after seroconversion in most cases. Therefore, p24 antigen assays are not reliable for diagnosing HIV infection after its very earliest stages. However, HIV infection can be reliably diagnosed earlier with combined antibody/antigen tests than with purely antibody-detecting tests, and fourth-generation antibody/antigen tests are now the standard screening assay in the UK and some other countries.

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