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Getting a Leg Up on HIV Resistance

Getting a Leg Up on HIV Resistance


Detecting whether HIVers are infected with even small amounts of drug-resistant forms of the virus could eventually be done with a test developed by researchers at Duke University Medical Center. While current tests pick up only drug-resistant strains when they represent a significant portion of the virus in the bloodstream, the test developed at Duke might enable doctors to more accurately predict which anti-HIV meds will work best for a patient. 'This can be huge,' says Feng Gao, a Duke HIV researcher and a coauthor of the article published online January 7 in the journal Nature Methods. So far, the test has been used for research only, but Duke is seeking patents that will enable it to develop a diagnostic screening for future commercial use. This new test comes amid rising evidence that antiretroviral resistance is a growing problem. Studies have found that 15% or more of people newly diagnosed with HIV harbor drug-resistant strains. 'A lot of questions are still unanswered, but it's an important step forward,' says Peter Leone, an HIV physician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and medical director of the state's HIV prevention branch. If the test pans out, he says, it would 'improve the odds that the first course of treatment is going to be successful.'

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