Scientists at Australia's Burnet Institute have developed a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for the measurement of CD4 T-cells, a marker of the immune system for people living with HIV and AIDS.

According to the scientists, based on the measurement of cell-associated CD4 protein in whole blood samples such as a finger prick, the kit will enable patients to receive appropriate treatment earlier without having to wait for reference laboratory test results which requires a repeat visit. The methodology uses a simple lateral flow immunochromatographic technique incorporated into a rapid test kit design, similar to a home pregnancy test.

Early clinical trials currently in progress are showing promising results with researchers estimating the cost of the kit to be less than AU$2 when commercially available.

Reportedly, in a recent collaboration, Burnet Institute has joined with Australian biomedical applications company Axxin, to develop an instrument reader specifically designed for use with the CD4 test in laboratories and physician clinics, which can be used to ensure a standardised approach in test kit result interpretation, essential for device approval in the developed world.

The development of the CD4 test kit has been supported in part by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the CD4 Initiative (Imperial College, London), while development of the instrument reader has been supported by the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology.

David Anderson, associate professor at Burnet Institute, said: “The new test kit and reader are significant advancements and will be able to guide treatment decisions at the point-of-care without extensive training or sophisticated equipment and should lead to improved access to antiretroviral drugs, especially in developing and resource-constrained countries.”