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Scientists Receive Grant to Develop Hand-Held Self-Monitoring Test for HIV Viral Loads

May 7, 2009

Scientists in the United Kingdom have received a grant worth two million euros, or about $2.67 million, to develop a self-monitoring system for HIV-positive people that measures viral loads through a finger-prick of blood, BBC News reports. The device's sensors, called microcantilever arrays, are coated with substances that stick to HIV and other proteins, which are markers associated with disease progression. Researchers hope that the hand-held device can alert users about heightened viral loads and display an alert if there is a need to see a doctor.

Anna-Maria Goretti, a National Health Service consultant and co-investigator based at the Royal Free Hospital, said that the device will "empower HIV patients to keep a close eye on their health and their treatments." She added that the device could allow users to skip seeing a doctor routinely, or about every three months, and see one only when there is a change in health. The researchers say self-monitoring could reduce doctor visits and prove beneficial in developing countries, where accessible HIV/AIDS care is needed. The three-year project to develop the device includes collaboration among researchers from the University College London, the London Centre for Nanotechnology, the Imperial College London, Cambridge Medical Innovations, Sphere Medical and Bio Nano Consulting. Lisa Power of the Terrence Higgins Trust said, "This is certainly a very good idea," adding that although it would not "replace specialist advice," it could "reduce a patient's dependence on doctors" (BBC News, 5/5).

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