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what is a blip?
Nov 8, 2003

please explain this to me in infant terms. my doctor is always talking about blip this and blip that, after a while i'm inclined to blip the prick in the eye the way he's confusing me! could you offer a simple definition and then a more complex one just in case your simple one insults my intelligence?

thanks doc.

Response from Dr. Wohl

This gave me an opportunity to look up this fun sounding word in my trusty dictionary. Here is what Mr. Webster says about blips:

blip (bl'p)noun. 1. A spot of light on a radar or sonar screen indicating the position of a detected object, such as an aircraft or a submarine. Also called pip. 2. A high-pitched electronic sound; a bleep. 3. A transient sharp upward or downward movement, as on a graph. 4. A temporary or insignificant phenomenon, especially a brief departure from the normal: "The decline in the share of GNP going to health... appears to be a one-time blip in the historic trend rather than the start of a new trend".

Items 3 and 4 are relevant to the blips we talk about in reference to viral loads. So, basically, it is when the viral load, typically previously undetectable, shoots up a bit (usually to somewhere under 1,000 copies) and then on repeat is back down below detection. What makes it a blip rather than viral failure is that it comes right back down.

What is the significance of these blippin blips? Some data indicate that blips are not at all a bad thing and that those who have an occassional low level blip maintain suppression of their viral loads longer than those who do not experience such blips.

Frequent blips about 50 copies may mean that the viral load is hovering right about at this lower limit of assay detection.

Also, it is important to realize that stuff happens and the viral load test is not fool-proof. An unexpected one time low level viral load increase could be a lab phenomenon rather than an actual increase in viral load in the blood. Hope this helps. DW



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