New test to improve HIV diagnosis in poor countries
By Chris Wickham
LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have come up with a test for the virus that causes AIDS that is ten times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods, offering the promise of better diagnosis and treatment in the developing world.
The test uses nanotechnology to give a result that can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
"Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper," Molly Stevens, who led the research, told Reuters.
Simple and quick HIV tests that analyse saliva already exist but they can only pick up the virus when it reaches relatively high concentrations in the body.
"We would be able to detect infection even in those cases where previous methods, such as the saliva test, were rendering a 'false negative' because the viral load was too low to be detected," she said.
The test could also be reconfigured to detect other diseases, such as sepsis, Leishmaniasis, Tuberculosis and malaria, Stevens said.
Testing is not only crucial in picking up the HIV virus early but also for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.
"Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce," Stevens said. Continued...