HIV drug resistance test to slash costs by 80 per cent

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Researchers in South Africa have developed a low-cost tool to test for HIV drug resistance, potentially opening the door to improved treatment for users of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

The researchers, based at the University of Western Cape's South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), have developed a computer-based tool ó Seq2Res ó that vastly reduces the costs and time involved in analysing data about viral DNA compared to conventional methods.

Simon Travers, bioinformatics associate professor and project leader at SANBI, says the tool allows HIV drug resistance testing of samples from almost 50 patients pooled together, which makes it significantly cheaper. Conventional method can only assess one patientís data at a time.

"Our tool makes this analysis easy," Travers tells SciDev.Net.

It is also expected to be five times cheaper than the average conventional testing system.

Travers says that the tool offers a more sensitive HIV drug resistance test by identifying drug resistant viral variants circulating at low levels in individuals. Viral sequences are listed and compared to a reference virus to identify the presence of mutations that are known to cause drug resistance.