New HIV Test is Ten Times Cheaper, More Sensitive

A study published in Nature Nanotechnology on Oct. 28 reports the invention of an HIV test that is ten times cheaper and more sensitive than existing tests. Once widely available, this test could allow for increased access to better testing around the world.

The test uses nanotechnology to detect for biomarker p24, an indicator of the presence of HIV. A positive test result will turn the serum blue, while a negative result turns the serum red. These results can be seen by the naked eye.

The simplicity of this test will likely make HIV testing more accessible to low-income areas where resources and technology are not always available. Molly Stevens, one of the authors of the study at Imperial College London, explained, “Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce.”

Additionally, a more sensitive test will result in fewer false negative results. While the existing HIV saliva test is simple, it requires a high concentration of the viral load to lead to a positive result, meaning a person who was recently infected might be misdiagnosed as negative. Instead, the new test can detect variation in the viral load concentration with greater sensitivity. This can be used to more accurately monitor the effect of medications on viral load.

It is estimated that 34 million people were living with HIV around the world in 2010, and that 1.8 million died from AIDS-related sickness in the same year.

The authors have also demonstrated the effectiveness of this type of test for prostate cancer. They believe its methods can be applied to other diseases, including sepsis, leishmaniasis, tuberculosis and malaria.

Stevens and her colleague, Roberto de la Rica, plan to approach not-for-profit global health organizations to begin work on the manufacturing and distribution of this test.

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