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New Rapid Test Detects Both HIV and TB in Blood Sample

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 Nov 2023
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Image: The new and rapid test detects both HIV and tuberculosis at the same time with a small amount of blood (Photo courtesy of Tulane University)
Image: The new and rapid test detects both HIV and tuberculosis at the same time with a small amount of blood (Photo courtesy of Tulane University)

HIV and tuberculosis (TB) frequently occur together, posing a significant health challenge. HIV weakens the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections like TB. Indeed, individuals with HIV are at the greatest risk of developing TB. Traditional TB diagnosis involves culturing sputum, saliva, and mucus mix, but this process is time-consuming and often not feasible for urgent treatment needs. Additionally, sputum collection is not viable for HIV patients due to their compromised immune systems. To fill this diagnostic gap, researchers have developed a rapid, dual-detection blood test that can identify both HIV and TB simultaneously using just a small blood sample.

This breakthrough blood test, developed by researchers at Tulane University (New Orleans, LA, USA), not only identifies HIV and TB but also measures their respective viral and bacterial loads. Requiring only about 200 microliters of blood – a mere few drops – the test bypasses the need for sputum samples, making it particularly useful for HIV patients. It operates by targeting specific HIV and TB antigens present in the blood, utilizing mass spectrometry for precise measurement of viral and bacterial quantities.

A key benefit of this novel test is its ability to monitor the levels of both HIV and TB during a patient's treatment. This real-time tracking is crucial in managing immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a condition where treating one infection may exacerbate the other. The test's rapid results allow for timely adjustments in treatment strategies, enhancing patient outcomes. Such tests are especially critical in developing countries, where TB is more prevalent and access to diagnostic resources is limited. The researchers are optimistic about progressing from their initial pilot study to clinical trials and are aiming for FDA approval of the test.

“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,” said Tony Hu at Tulane University School of Medicine who led the research. “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.”

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