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New Technology Can Assist in Global Fight Against HIV & Hepatitis

SEP 08, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
Researchers from Nanjing Biopoint, “a high tech medical diagnostic product company,” have made what they are calling a breakthrough when it comes to fighting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The company uses a certain material when collecting blood samples that separates plasma from the rest of the blood, thus allowing it to be sent through the mail to a testing center on a dry sheet.

HIV remains a global health threat as the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates about 36.9 individuals worldwide are living with the infection and, of that number, 2.6 million of those infected individuals are children. There is no cure for HIV; once it is acquired, the individual has it for life. However, the virus can be controlled through the use of antiretroviral treatments. Researchers from around the world are working on attaining better understanding on the virus and developing different treatment options in order to prevent and treat those infected.

According to a recent press release, Nanjing BioPoint researchers are aiming to assist in the fight against HIV. Their core objective is to “bring the diagnostic and continuing treatment pipeline closer to home, making sample collection something any local clinician can do."

The President and CEO of Nanjing BioPoint and deputy director of the Burnet Institute, Dr. David Anderson, PhD, says that in Sub-Saharan Africa, only about 5-10% of the individuals infected with HIV/AIDS go for Viral Load (VL) testing. VL testing is a test that measures the amount of HIV particles in an individual’s blood. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “A viral load test helps provide information on your health status and how well antiretroviral therapy (ART-treatment with HIV medicines) is controlling the virus.” Doctors recommend that infected individuals get tested twice a year so that doctors can track proliferation of the virus.

Lack of resources and the larger distance of individuals from the testing centers are two main influential factors when it comes to why so few individuals adhere to the testing recommendations, according to the press release. The company’s sample-collecting method works to remedy this situation by sending the samples to testing centers to be analyzed. According to the press release, “there is no health hazard to send a dried blood sample with HIV through the post office.”

When it comes to distributing treatment throughout the region, Dr. Anderson said, “People are already doing it but [are] only correct 50% of the time. Our method is correct 100% of the time.” Dr. Anderson and his team of researchers had tested 191 patients previous to this, and soon, additional, larger trials will be conducted in Malaysia, according to the press release. Dr. Anderson expects their sampling method to be available in 2017 at the cost of about a “few US dollars.”

Future Plans

The next fight that BioPoint aims to take on is with hepatitis B. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 240 million cases of hepatitis B worldwide, and 90 million of those cases are in China.

When speaking further on his intentions to battle hepatitis B, Dr. Anderson said, “Our intent is to develop a test that will detect [an] elevated level of liver enzymes in a point-of-care (POC) test like a pregnancy test.” The product is set to be manufactured as 2017 comes to a close. He added, “For people with viral hepatitis or drug toxicity from HIV treatments or from metabolic diseases, you need to test your blood for indicators of liver disease.”
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