British scientists have developed an HIV screening test using nanotechnology that is much more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing tests, reports Reuters.
The test [results] can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. "Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper," Molly Stevens, who led the research, told Reuters. [...]
The new sensor works by testing serum, a clear watery fluid derived from blood samples, in a disposable container for the presence of an HIV biomarker called p24. If p24 is present, even in minute concentrations, it causes the tiny gold nanoparticles to clump together in an irregular pattern that turns the solution blue. A negative result separates them into ball shapes that generate a red colour.
The new test has the potential to dramatically improve HIV/AIDS testing and treatment in the developing world—and lower infection rates, too. The need is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
According to 2010 data from the World Health Organisation, about 23 million people living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa out of a worldwide total of 34 million.The virus is also spreading faster and killing more people in this part of the world. Sub-Saharan Arica accounted for 1.9 million new cases out of a global total of 2.7 million in the same year, and 1.2 million out of the 1.8 million deaths.
[The scientists] said they plan to approach not-for-profit global health organisations to help them manufacture and distribute the new sensor in low income countries.
The news comes only weeks after the inroduction of OraQuick, the nation's first over-the-counter, rapid in-home HIV test. That could have dramatic potential in the Black community and particularly among Black men who have sex with men (MSM). Blacks make up some 56 percent of all so-called late testers—people who are diagnosed with AIDS within one year of their HIV diagnosis. Late testers have less chance to benefit from lifesaving medications and are considered "extremely infectious."
The number of new HIV infections in the United States has remained “relatively stable” at approximately 50,000 per year between 2006 and 2009, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that was published in August 2011.
But there have been a soaring number of seroconversions among Black men who have sex with men. The trend has been particularly “alarming” among Black MSM aged 13 to 19, according to the CDC. New infections have increased by 48 percent between 2006 and 2009. New infections rates are much higher in some cities—such as Milwaukee, where an estimated 42 percent of Black gay/bi men could be infected.
See our report for EBONY "New Data Show Black Gay Men Face "World's Highest" Risk of HIV" and our series "Reversing the Alarming HIV Increase Among Black Gay Men Part 1" and "Part 2".
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