The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health in the US has developed a new test called TZA that can be used to detect hidden HIV.
Scientists found that the amount of dormant virus detected using the less expensive Pitt test is approximately 70 times the prior estimates.
Reportedly, a major part of the HIV’s DNA, which integrates into the white blood groups called CD4+ T cells, is not responsible for the infection.
While the existing anti-retroviral therapies are known to control the infection, a test is required to identify if the detected HIV DNA is capable of creating more of the virus once the therapy is discontinued.
The current quantitative viral outgrowth assay or Q-VOA test is said to generate a lower estimate of the latent HIV reservoir size, needs a larger volume of blood, and is more labour-intensive, time-consuming and expensive than TZA.
Developed by a team of scientists lead by Pitt Public Health’s Infectious Diseases and Microbiology department professor and vice chair Phalguni Gupta, TZA detects a gene that is activated only in the presence of replicating HIV.
Gupta said: “Using this test, we demonstrated that asymptomatic patients on antiretroviral therapy carry a much larger HIV reservoir than previous estimates - as much as 70 times what the Q-VOA test was detecting.
“Because these tests have different ways to measure HIV that is capable of replicating, it is likely beneficial to have both available as scientists strive towards a cure.”
As the new test requires fewer cells, it is expected to aid in the replication-competent HIV-1 quantification in the paediatric population, and also in lymph nodes and tissues.