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New HIV test may predict drug resistance

DURHAM, N.C. -- Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have developed a highly sensitive test for identifying which drug-resistant strains of HIV are harbored in a patient's bloodstream.

The test may provide physicians with a tool to guide patient treatment by predicting if a patient is likely to become resistant to a particular HIV drug, said one of its developers, Feng Gao, M.D., associate professor of medicine. Drug resistance is one of the most common reasons why therapy for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, fails.

The test, which detects genetic changes, or mutations, in HIV, also may help scientists understand how the constantly evolving virus develops drug resistance, Gao said. He said such knowledge ultimately may result in the development of new treatments designed to evade resistance.

The findings will appear online on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007, in the journal Nature Methods, as well as in the journal's February 2007 print edition. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Duke Center for AIDS Research.

Duke has filed for a provisional patent on the technology, and the researchers are considering ways to establish a new company to pursue its development or to license the technology to an existing company, Gao said.

Because HIV genes mutate so easily and the virus reproduces so rapidly, most people who are infected have many different forms of the virus in their bodies. In some cases, mutated strains take on new properties that make them more resistant to the drugs used in antiretroviral therapy, the primary means of treatment for HIV infection.

During antiretroviral therapy that does not fully suppress the virus, a strain that develops drug resistance will grow more quickly than strains lacking such resistance, and the resistant strain will replicate to become the most prominent virus in the person's body.

"The viral populations found in the blood of one patient ca
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Contact: Marla Vacek Broadfoot
marla.broadfoot@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
7-Jan-2007


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