Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have been selected to participate in a collaborative initiative to develop a simple, affordable and rapid test to measure the immune systems of people infected with HIV/AIDS in developing countries. The four year CD4 Initiative is conducted under the leadership of Imperial College London with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The CD4 Initiative will develop an easy to use device that can measure CD4+ T-lymphocytes in HIV+ patients. The CD4 cell count measures the number of these critical disease-fighting cells in the blood, a figure that health care workers need in order to make key clinical decisions in managing HIV disease, such as when to begin or to switch antiretroviral therapy.
Study co-investigator Alan Landay, PhD, chairman of the department of Immunology and Microbiology at Rush, said current technologies for measuring CD4 counts are expensive to buy and maintain, and require a level of infrastructure and training that is often not available in many developing countries.
“In remote villages where there are likely to be no laboratory facilities, health care workers need a simple point-of-care test they can perform with little training,” said Landay. “The goal is an inexpensive test that can use blood from a simple finger prick and requires no sample processing or microscopy.”
Landay will collaborate with scientists at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia. The technology underpinning this test was developed by associate professor David Anderson, a co-investigator on this grant and deputy director at the Burnet Institute. The principal investigator on the proposal is Suzanne Crowe, head of the Pathogenesis and Clinical Research Program at the Burnet Institute. Other co-investigators include Professor Tom Denny of Duke University School of Medicine.
The initiative will take a project management approach using multiple research teams around the world from academia, private companies and other institutions that will work collaboratively under the leadership of Imperial College London.
“Despite the burden of HIV/AIDS on the developing worlds, many of the diagnostic tools are just not accessible there due to the high cost and complexity of use. This initiative will help develop new, simple, rapid, robust and affordable tools and help remove one important barrier to the effective implementation of AIDS care in these countries,” said professor Stephen Smith, principal of the faculty of medicine at Imperial College London.
Initial funding for the proof of concept was provided by a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation.
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