'More accurate' HIV test may help sharps injury victims affected by virus

Wednesday May 31 2017

Scientists based in the US have developed a new test that is able to detect traces of HIV in the blood more accurately than other currently available methods, which could have significant benefits for future sharps injury victims.

HIV is one of the major risk factors associated with a needlestick injury, as these incidents can expose the bloodstream to life-threatening infections, particularly if contaminated needles are involved. 

As a result, anyone who suffers a sharps injury is advised to be tested for conditions including HIV and hepatitis C so they can begin accessing treatment as soon as possible if necessary.

Now, thanks to the development of a new test by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, those unfortunately infected with blood-borne diseases following a needlestick injury could see their long-term outcomes improve significantly. 

The blood test is accurate, cost-effective and simple to carry out, requiring doctors or nurses to take a sample of a patient's blood after they have already received a course of retroviral therapy. This treatment is often prescribed to people diagnosed with HIV to slow down the spread of the infection, proving effective even when the virus has been deemed inactive in their body.

What the test does is determine how much of the illness remains in an individual's bloodstream following initial treatment, allowing doctors to see which patients are most likely to benefit from further drugs. Some HIV medication has adverse side-effects, so the creation of the new blood test could have significant benefits for those who are required to take these drugs following an unfortunate sharps injury.

The results of the new test can be available within one week compared to the usual fortnight, allowing doctors to stay on top of patients' conditions and make sure they are receiving the best possible treatment for their individual needs.

Commenting on the results of the research, which were published in the journal Nature Medicine, Dr Phalguni Gupta of the university's department of infectious diseases and microbiology explained: "Globally, there are substantial efforts to cure people of HIV by finding ways to eradicate this latent reservoir of virus that stubbornly persists in patients, despite our best therapies.

"But those efforts aren't going to progress if we don't have tests that are sensitive and practical enough to tell doctors if someone is truly cured."


Image credit: Dr-Microbe via iStock