HIV/AIDS is evolving into a global epidemic, due to high mortality and lack of defined and effective treatment strategies. Experts say that the only and effective way to manage HIV infection is timely diagnosis and continuous monitoring of the viral counts to immediately detect the possibility of development of drug resistance in the virus. A UK based group of scientists developed a fast and compact HIV diagnosis kit which fits into a USB drive. It can be operated by connecting to a USB port anywhere, anytime.
Accurate, Affective and Accessible
The conventional diagnostic test for detection of HIV infection is a long, pain stacking analytically complicated process which often limits its accessibility and affectivity. A group of scientists from the Imperial College, London, England developed a pH dependent, complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip based assay, which works when connected through a USB port. It sends the results in the form of electronic signals that can be easily interpreted in the connected device.
This technique will be highly useful in countries where many patients are devoid of proper treatment for AIDS, due to unavailability of sophisticated labs required for the safe handling and diagnosis of the infection. As per the studies conducted in England, the mean time required for carrying out an analysis in this HIV USB is 20.8 minutes. Additionally the researchers who invented this device confirmed its high accuracy and reliability.
Early Detection, Prevention and Monitoring of AIDS
This tool can be used in remote areas for quick diagnosis of the disease. This will not only help in starting a treatment program for the patient but also prevent the communication of the disease.
For those who are already undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, they can use this device to monitor progression/regression of the disease. This is highly essential for the complete recovery of the patient because, most often the ART becomes ineffective due to the development of drug resistance in the viruses. This USB device can help such patients to monitor their viral counts and track the response of the virus to ART. Usually a sudden surge in the viral count corresponds to development of drug resistance. When encountered with such conditions, the doctor can make necessary changes in the therapeutic strategy.
The device is currently manufactured by UK based DNA Electronics company. In the coming days we can expect that this device will be increasingly used in all developed and developing countries. This may be the ray of hope that HIV positive patients have been waiting for.
Gurrala, R. et al. Novel pH sensing semiconductor for point-of-care detection of HIV-1 viremia. Sci. Rep. 6, 36000; doi: 10.1038/srep36000 (2016).
Bennett, D. E. et al. The World Health Organization’s global strategy for prevention and assessment of HIV drug resistance. Antivir Ther 13(2), 1–13 (2008).