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New Ultra-Sensitive HIV Viral Load Test Detects HIV Infection at Earlier Stage
  Wall Street Journal
June 15, 2004
Marilyn Chase
A new HIV test combining aspects of traditional antibody testing with polymerase chain reaction testing, which amplifies small amounts of virus, may allow doctors to monitor treatment better and screen blood with more speed and sensitivity than current tests. The Real-Time Immuno-PCR test detects small amounts of the p24 protein in HIV, said Niel Constantine of the Institute of Human Virology at Baltimore's University of Maryland School of Medicine. The institute's chief is Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of HIV.
The efficacy of AIDS drugs can be measured by monitoring a patient's HIV levels, of which an increase can signal drug resistance. When drugs lose their effect, patients need to switch drugs. Most current tests of viral load can detect 50 copies of HIV, while the Real-Time Immuno-PCR can detect just two copies, said institute researchers Janet Barletta and Daniel Edelman. Barletta, Edelman and Constantine reported their findings in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Pathology. Constantine hopes the test will detect HIV faster than current tests, which can detect the virus in blood 12 days after infection. Validating the new test requires long-term study and Food and Drug Administration approval.
Constantine said his group is separately developing a simple and cheap battery-operated system for monitoring HIV treatment in the developing world. The portable device, being co-developed with Norway's Blonor AS under a $200,000 Doris Duke Foundation grant, could operate in settings without dependable power or sophisticated laboratories.
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