Late last year we reported on a revolutionary new tuberculosis (TB) test (Xpert MTB/RIF) that was endorsed by the World Health Organisation. Cepheid, the company that developed Xpert MTB/RIF, and FIND, a non-profit foundation dedicated to developing affordable and easy-to-use diagnostic tests, have announced their collaboration to develop a rapid molecular test to diagnose HIV. The HIV test would run on Cepheid’s existing GeneXpert machine which is already being used for the TB test.
The collaboration is expected to result in being able to use a single machine, about the size of a cappuccino maker, to test for TB, HIV and STDs. Considering that TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, having a machine that tests for both would be a significant step forward in developing a more holistic approach towards addressing TB-HIV co-infection.
Although the HIV and TB epidemics are closely related, there has been limited collaboration between TB and HIV/AIDS programmes. Due to a lack of combined services, most patients with TB and HIV must travel between centres offering diagnosis and treatment for each. It is essential that HIV testing be offered to TB patients. In addition, although all people living with HIV should be screened for TB, the WHO estimates that only about five per cent actually are.
Giorgio Roscigno, CEO of FIND, commented:
“Given the particular challenges presented by HIV and TB co-infection, we believe that the Xpert HIV viral load test will be an excellent complement to Xpert MTB/RIF, dramatically improving endemic countries’ capacity to diagnose and manage these infections. This new collaboration confirms the possibility of creating diagnostic platforms for several diseases, thus extending the reach of scarce resources intended to combat them.”
This machine could provide a vital transformation to the way we address TB-HIV co-infection. We at RESULTS are excited about this development and are eager to see the HIV viral load test be developed as soon as possible.