The Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $8.6 million grant to Imperial College in London to develop an affordable and rapid test to measure the health of the immune system in HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries.
Through its CD4 initiative, Imperial will work to develop an easy-to-use device that can measure CD4+ T-lymphocytes in HIV-positive patients. The CD4 cell count measures the number of these critical disease-fighting cells in the blood, a figure healthcare workers need to make key clinical decisions in managing HIV, such as when to begin or switch antiretroviral therapies.
Current technologies for measuring CD4 counts are expensive to buy and maintain and require a level of infrastructure and training not often available in developing countries. The CD4 initiative will advance new tests that are more appropriate for these countries based on specifications developed with healthcare workers in hospitals and clinics in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.
"Despite the burden of HIV/AIDS on the developing world, many of the diagnostic tools are just not accessible there due to the high cost and complexity of use," said Stephen Smith, principal of Imperial's faculty of medicine. "This initiative will help develop new, simple, rapid, robust, and affordable tools, and help remove one important barrier to the effective implementation of AIDS care in these countries."