Providing a low cost and accessible HIV testing solution.By Burnet Institute
Project URL: burnet.edu.au
The CD4 test is the workhorse of the diagnosis and treatment of HIV. The level of CD4 in blood acts as a barometer for the state of the immune system and so the progression of HIV. By monitoring the condition twice a year a medical practitioner can start the right treatment at the right time with anti-retroviral drugs that often extend life expectancy and reduce transmission of the disease. The test is central to efforts to combat the HIV/Aids pandemic.
However, there are several limiting issues with traditional tests that reduce their full effectiveness in the most needy patient sectors. Traditional testing involves the patient’s blood sample being transported to a central laboratory where specialist equipment (a flow cytometer) is used to run the test. This process is not only expensive and requires trained technicians but is time consuming. By the time the results get back to the clinic, the patient often cannot be traced for follow-up or treatment.
It took six years for a team from the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia, working with colleagues at Rush University in Chicago and Duke University in North Carolina to develop a test that offers a result within 40 minutes without the need for instrumentation and at a significantly lower cost. Just a finger prick of blood can be run on the device by health workers in the field, in a similar way to current malaria and HIV tests.
From there, the CD4 mHealth smartphone app uses an everyday phone camera to read test results in the field and offers integration to cloud databases. This adds the ability to capture results and demographics from a smartphone, providing a variety of configurable real-time reporting and data workflows. The point-of-care test provides results there and then to then guide appropriate treatment schedules before the patient leaves the clinic.
According to UNITAID, there are over 15 million people in resource-poor areas in developing countries who simply do not have access to ART because they cannot get access to an affordable CD4 test in their communities. The team at the Burnet believes their ultra-simple, low-cost CD4 test could be used to deliver more than 30 million tests a year where the traditional testing regime is inaccessible. The test has now been licensed to Omega Diagnostics in the UK to facilitate the industrial-scale manufacture, distribution and quality assurance needed to support broad uptake of this life-saving innovation.
Image © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Eraxion
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014