Viral Load Can Be Detected with New Rapid HIV Test
Scientists at Imperial College London, together with DNA Electronics, have developed a rapid HIV test using a USB drive that can detect HIV viral load in 20 minutes. Only a drop of blood is needed for the USB stick—similar to diabetics checking glucose levels with a fingerstick—which is then inserted into a desktop or portable notebook, where it communicates with an app, feeding data to the software, and the user can read the results in less than 30 minutes. The viral load, if any, is detected through the presence of the virus genetic material, RNA; if present, amount is also indicated in the results. Using blood samples of 991 participants, results were 95 percent accurate compared with the traditional method, which takes at least a couple of days to process results.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, of which 2 million are children. Majority of the population infected with the virus reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, 18.2 million are on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to keep viral count down. With the rapid HIV test, HIV levels can be easily tracked at home for ART recipients to determine medication efficacy. If drug resistance occurs, regular home monitoring can detect it sooner than later and a new treatment regimen can be implemented. Also, in developing regions where access to technology is limited, the USB stick technique can easily test for HIV using a portable device, and implement treatment to help staunch transmission, as in the case of mother to child via birth or breastfeeding.
The rapid HIV test using a USB drive with a litmus medium that detects change in pH as evidence of RNA material of the virus is still in its beginning phase and will be a long time before we see it used in homes. However, scientists have high hopes for its use and are concomitantly developing the device to detect hepatitis virus as well.
If You Can’t Prevent Them, Destroy Them: Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles Allows Immune System to Kill Virus that Causes Genital Herpes
A vaccine for herpes has eluded scientists, mainly because the virus that cause herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2)—one causes cold sores and the other causes genital warts and birth defects in newborns if a woman gives birth while infected, respectively—does not stay in the bloodstream where vaccines are most effective. Researchers from University of Illinois at Chicago, in collaboration with scientists from University of Kiel in Germany, have discovered that tetrapod-shaped zinc oxide nanoparticles, that they dubbed ZOTEN, are effective in preventing healthy cells from being “hijacked” by the virus, and allowing the body’s natural defense system to kill the virus before it spreads.
Herpes has a tendency to hide in the nervous system when dormant, where symptoms are treated with oral antiviral medications and topicals for genital warts in the case of HSV-2 to shorten the duration of the outbreak. HIV infection is three or four times higher when infected with genital herpes, and with increased use of medication drug resistance can occur with little methods to prevent future outbreaks.
ZOTEN nanoparticles are manufactured using a patented flame transport synthesis technology, and work by electrically attracting positively charged proteins on the surface of HSV-2 virus with its own negatively charged surface. Once bound, HSV-2 can’t infect healthy cells and are subject to dendritic cells—antigen-presenting cells of the immune system that takes processed foreign cells and “present” them to antibody-producing cells to create arsenal for complete destruction of the pathogen.
When tested on female mice swabbed with HSV-2 and then treated with an ointment with ZOTEN as well as without, fewer genital lesions were witnessed on mice treated with ZOTEN than without, with also less evidence of central nervous system inflammation, where the virus makes its hideout when inactive in the bloodstream. The immune system at work was also observed under high resolution fluorescence microscopy as dendritic cells attacked HSV-2 virus while being held by the zinc oxide nanoparticles.
Once safety and effectiveness is established for human use, a cream containing ZOTEN nanoparticles would be applied to vaginal just before sexual intercourse. If applied regularly as a preventive measure and a dose was skipped, scientists speculate there is enough protection from the built-up immunity.
HIV also has positively charged proteins on their outer surface, and the researchers hope to expand their treatment modality to encompass HIV prevention as well.