Scientists have developed a new device that can monitor HIV virus levels accurately and quickly, Reuters reports.
Created at Imperial College London, the instrument requires a drop of blood placed onto a chip mounted on a USB stick. The sample creates an electronic signal that’s readable by a computer or a mobile device.
In research published in the journal Scientific Reports, the device was 95 percent accurate in 991 blood samples. Routine laboratory test to detect virus levels can take at least three days, but the new instrument yielded results in about 20 minutes.
It’s important to monitor virus levels because sometimes antiretroviral drugs, which reduce HIV virus levels, stop working. The first sign of that situation would be a rise in a patient’s viral load.
“Monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment,” stated Graham Cooke, a lead researcher on the project. “At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result.”
Cooke said the team created a tiny chip that replaces an instrument the size of a large photocopier. The new device is owned by the American company DNA Electronics.
Approximately 36 million people globally are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Here in the United States, African-Americans account for a disproportionately high number of cases, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
According to CDC figures, African-Americans accounted for 44 percent of estimated new HIV diagnoses in 2014 but represent just 12 percent of the U.S. population.