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New Portable Low Cost CD4 Test: Melbourne HIV test could help millions
  Julia Medew
June 4, 2009
MELBOURNE scientists have developed a HIV test that could significantly improve the lives of millions of people living with the disease in developing countries.
Suzanne Crowe, from the Burnet Institute, said yesterday that she and three other Australian and American scientists had created the first portable, low-cost test that monitored the progression of HIV, allowing health-care workers to ascertain when treatment was needed. Similar in design to a pregnancy test, a finger is pricked for a blood sample to determine the number of CD4 T-cells in the blood.
Health-care workers rely on a CD4 count to decide when treatment should start for HIV-positive patients.
The cells are critical for a functioning immune system and are slowly destroyed during the course of HIV infection, making people more vulnerable to illness.
Professor Crowe said the test could be used in developing countries, where most people did not have access to CD4 testing because it was expensive and relied on sophisticated laboratory testing and trained operators.
"This is a unique test," Professor Crowe said.
"There is nothing available that can test the immune system like this without laboratory facilities. It can be taken into remote villages and performed on the spot.
"This test will allow millions of people to get treatment, because many governments say they will provide treatment for people with a certain CD4 count, but if those people can't get that count, they can't access treatment."
Professor Crowe said the test, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was undergoing clinical studies in the United States, Britain and Australia to ensure it produced a reliable result. If passed, it could be in use by the end of next year at a cost of $2 a test.
About 33 million people have been diagnosed with HIV worldwide.
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