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Sunday 27th May 2018

Test for drug-resistant HIV

8th January 2007

20092006_hiv1.jpgResearchers in the US have developed a super-sensitive test that can pick up much lower levels of drug-resistant HIV in the blood than any currently available test.

A team led by Feng Gao at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute in Durham, North Carolina, developed fluorescent tags that match some of the 30 mutatations of HIV which have developed drug resistance. The tags cause the resistant viral strains to glow green, enabling them to be counted by a special device.

Drug-resistant HIV can gradually take over in the bloodstream of an HIV-positive person, weakening the immune system and making them more likely to develop AIDS.

The drug resistant strain has to reach at least 20% of the viral load in a patient before it can be detected using current tests. But by this stage it has already reached dangerous levels. Identifying the strain earlier could enable doctors to fine-tune a patient's medication to avoid the problem of resistance.

According to Gao, the new test can detect a single mutated virus among 10,000 non-mutated viruses from a patient sample. He says his test has an error rate of only one in every million virus particles analysed.

Experts say the correct combination of drugs can stop the HIV virus from multiplying, and freeze the development of AIDS in a patient.

Drug-resistant strains of HIV have been found in between 10% and 20% of HIV-infected people in the United States and Europe.

The Duke Institute has filed for a patent on the new test, and hopes it may one day be licensed for commercial production.


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