New hope for HIV patients in developing countries

Sexual health experts have helped develop a portable machine that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with HIV in developing countries.

SAMBA II tests for the genetic materials of the HIV virus in patients under treatment.

The machine, which is the size of a domestic coffee machine, reduces the time taken to get results from eight weeks to two hours for people living in remote areas.

A finger prick test also avoids taking large blood samples from the vein confirming a patient’s HIV viral load, the amount of virus in the blood, and whether their medication is working.

Dr Gary Brook, a, HIV and sexual health consultant at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, presented the findings at the recent World AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

Dr Brook said: “This technology is the most significant project I’ve been involved in during more than 35 years of research and initial results shows that its accuracy using finger-prick samples matches that of expensive time consuming laboratory based tests

“A lot of these patients simply can’t come back for their results given the wait and subsequently see their health deteriorate leading to poor care, anti-viral resistance and ineffective treatment.”

SAMBA II was developed byDiagnostics for the Real World, a spin-out company from the University of Cambridge.

Clinical trials of the test in London, Ukraine, Cameroon and Zimbabwe were funded by the Medical Research Council while the underpinning technology was supported by The Wellcome Trust. 

HIV clinics at Central Middlesex and Northwick Park Hospitals took part in the study to assess a new way of testing for HIV viral suppression.

Patients donated  a1,000 blood samples to test the validity of the machine with further work taking place as far afield as Cameroon, Ukraine and Zimbabwe reflecting  a ‘global effort to find a global solution.”

The technology is another step towards helping meet the global goal by the World Health Organisation and UNAID’s commitment to ensure that 90% of all people have had a confirmed HIV test, 90% are on antiretroviral treatment and 90% have HIV virus levels successfully suppressed by treatment, by 2020.

SAMBA II should get regulatory approval later this year, making it available to millions of patients’ currently receiving inadequate HIV treatment monitoring.