Not only is the test significant for identifying HIV and TB, but it can be safer for patients living with HIV due to their suppressed immune systems.
Researchers at Tulane University have developed a new rapid test that can detect both HIV and tuberculosis (TB) simultaneously with only 200 microliters of blood. The study, which was published in Clinical Chemistry, found that the blood-based test can detect both diseases while also measuring the vital and bacterial loads of patients.
HIV and TB are common coinfections. A symptom of HIV is a suppressed immune system, making it more likely for individuals living with HIV to contract infections such as TB.
“For HIV patients, their immune system is very weak, and once they are infected, they can’t confront the bacteria very well, so that’s why there is this urgent need to bring a blood-based TB tests to them,” Tony Hu, PhD, Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Biotechnology Innovation and director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Diagnostics at Tulane University School of Medicine, said in a press release.
TB tests, which are traditionally performed by using a bacterial culture of sputum, take a long time and can be impractical when it is more urgent for patients to receive treatment. Further, sputum is a product of immune response, and is not an option for people living with HIV due to their suppressed immune systems; however, the blood-based simultaneous test avoids the need for sputum, allowing patients with HIV to be tested for TB.
The test targets HIV and TB antigens in the blood, using mass spectrometry to detect both viral and bacterial loads. The test allows physicians to track levels of both HIV and TB in a patient as they undergo treatment, meaning they can intervene quickly if a treatment is ineffective. Not only is early intervention significant, but combining the 2 tests will also save patients both money and time, according to Hu.
“For the TB-infected patients, they worry, ‘Why did I get TB? Is it because I have HIV?’ So, this is a multiplex detection to cover both pathogens,” said Hu in the press release. “You cannot treat them simultaneously. You have to pick 1 to treat first: HIV or TB. If you treat HIV first, you may boost the TB bacterial load.”
Tulane University. Tulane scientists invent single, rapid test for both HIV and TB. News release. November 13, 2023. Accessed November 14, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1007920