The equipment is being set up, for the first time in India, at the Y R Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education (YRG CARE) in the south Indian metropolis Chennai.
The RealTime PCR test is sensitive at detecting low HIV viral loads and is also faster in providing results, it is pointed out by the YRG CARE authorities.
The ability to detect and measure genetic variations of the HIV is an important factor in managing AIDS on a worldwide basis and determining the most effective course of treatment for patients.
Viral load tests measure what's called HIV RNA. RNA is the part of HIV that knows how to make more virus. There are several different viral load tests. These tests are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USA, for use in checking the health of people with HIV, to see if they may be at risk for getting sick. These tests are also approved for checking the effects of anti-HIV drugs, to see if they are working against the virus.
Viral load tests are reported as the number of HIV copies in a milliliter of blood. If the viral load measurement is high, it indicates that HIV is reproducing and that the disease will likely progress faster than if the viral load is low. A high viral load can be anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 copies and can range as high as one million or more.
A low viral load is usually between 200 to 500 copies, depending on the type of test used. This result indicates that HIV is not actively reproducing and that the risk of disease progression is low.
The viral load is a gold standard in measuring the efficacy of HIV treatment and is routinely used in most countries in the European Union as well as the USA.
A high viral load among patients on Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is considered the first sign of treatment failure. However, it is seldom used in the Indian setting as it is expensive, at Rs.4,000 per test.
It should change now, with the installation of the Abbot's equipment at the YRG Care, Chennai.
"The RealTime PCR is being validated to Indian setting and the public will be able to access the facility probably by the first week of September at less than Rs 1000. This will in turn increase its utilisation in clinical practice resulting in the identification of treatment failure at the earliest stage. That would in turn enable the physician to adopt the best possible course for minimising the development of drug resistance," said Dr Suniti Solomon, director, YRG CARE.
"The reliability and precision of the Abbott RealTime HIV-1 test on the m2000 system for detecting HIV-1 subtypes across a broad dynamic range should help physicians be confident about assessing viral levels in their patients, enabling them to provide optimal treatment," says John Robinson, senior director, research and development, Abbott Molecular.