Blood Test Stops Dangerous Reaction in HIV Patients
July 27, 2007
A simple blood test can predict which patients are likely to experience dangerous side effects when taking the AIDS drug Ziagen (abacavir), according to research presented Wednesday at the 4th International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney.
During their first three weeks on the drug, about one in 20 patients will experience flu-like symptoms including fever, rashes, and respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. Previously, doctors have had to wait and see which patients suffered the side effects.
"Rather than put people through all that anxiety, we now have an alternative," said Professor Simon Mallal of the Royal Perth Hospital, who presented the findings.
In 2002, the Perth researchers identified the gene HLA-B5701 as the cause of the reaction. Now they have developed a test to see which patients have this gene.
The researchers enlisted 2,000 HIV patients at 265 worldwide clinics for the study. Half were screened for the gene; those who had it were put on other medication. "There were literally zero immune reactions in the patients that had the genetic tests," Mallal said. "It has really revolutionized the use of abacavir in Australia."
"This gives us a much-needed additional tool to use to reduce the potential toxicity of this particular drug," said Professor David Cooper, conference co-chair.
The test, which costs $30 (US $26), is becoming more widely available in Australia, Europe, and Britain.
Australian Associated Press
07.25.2007; Tamara McLean