New device can detect viral load in under 30 minutes
LONDON, 11 November 2016 (AVERT) - Viral load testing may become more accessible to millions of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa thanks to a new USB testing stick.
Blood sample being given for HIV test
Getting viral load testing to millions of people in low-resource settings could now become a lot easier with the help of a new USB, which turns a droplet of blood into an electrical signal that can be read by a computer or mobile device.
Researchers from Imperial College in London and DNA Electronics developed the device, which can measure the level of HIV in the bloodstream – known as the viral load.
Viral load is a key indicator for managing antiretroviral treatment in people living with HIV. If the viral load is high, then treatment is failing and it may be necessary to switch. Ensuring people living with HIV have regular viral load testing is important for keeping them healthy, but also for reducing the likelihood that they will develop drug resistance.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of people living with HIV reside, poor health systems and a lack of laboratories means that viral load testing is not often done – despite it being the gold standard for treatment monitoring.
The new device will allow for people to monitor and manage their HIV status from their home, or in low-resource contexts – much like how diabetics manage their blood sugar levels.
Dr Graham Cooke, senior author of the study said, "At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result. We have taken the job done by this equipment, which is the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB chip.”
The device cannot yet be used by doctors and patients, but early results show that it is 95% accurate in detecting HIV levels.
Professor Chris Toumazou, Executive Chairman of DNAe added: “This is a great example of how this new analysis technology has the potential to transform how patients with HIV are treated by providing a fast, accurate and portable solution.”