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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 04
Oral HIV test proved accurate, researchers say
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Oral HIV test proved accurate, researchers say

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A mouth swab to test for HIV has proven to be as accurate as the traditional blood test, Canadian scientists announced January 25.

Researchers from McGill University in Montreal said that their saliva HIV test OraQuick HIV 1/2 is 99% accurate for HIV in high-risk populations and about 97% accurate in low-risk populations.

The oral test works by detecting whether HIV antibodies are present in a person's saliva and gives a result within 20 minutes.

'Testing is the cornerstone of prevention, treatment, and care strategies,' study leader Dr. Nitika Pant Pai said.

'Although previous studies have shown that the oral fluid-based OraQuick HIV 1/2 test has great promise, ours is the first to evaluate its potential at a global level.'

The McGill research, which was published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, has major implications for countries that want to adopt self-testing strategies for HIV.

'Getting people to show up for HIV testing at public clinics has been difficult because of visibility, stigma, lack of privacy, and discrimination,' Pai said. 'A confidential testing option such as self-testing could bring an end to the stigmatization associated with HIV testing.'

The U.S. FDA approved an oral HIV test called OraSure in 2004, but that test employed a different method of analysis. The OraQuick test evaluated in the McGill study comes from the same manufacturer, OraSure Technologies, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

In the OraQuick test, the patient's saliva is mixed in a vial with developing solution, and the results are read from a sticklike testing device. It will reliably identify HIV 1, which is most common in the US and Europe, and HIV 2, which is the common strain in Africa.

OraSure requires a two-step process that uses the standard testing methods ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), and the so-called 'western blot' test. It has also proved to be 99% effective in diagnosing HIV infections.

At the time the FDA approved OraSure, it was hoped that it might eventually become available over-the-counter. However, health officials were concerned that people testing positive in a home setting without counseling or medical advice might become depressed or even harm themselves.

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