Dried Blood Test May Detect HIV, Hepatitis B and C

A test using a single spot of dried blood successfully detected HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C in all 60 samples with known amounts of each virus.

Data on a groundbreaking test with the potential to detect HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C using just a single drop of blood will be presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).

This news comes from a press release based on abstract 1727 to be presented at the ECCMID annual meeting, which will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 15-18. The study has been peer reviewed by the congress selection committee, and there is currently no full paper on the study.

The test was validated by Stephen Nilsson-Møller, molecular biologist at Hvidovre Hospital, and his team in the department of clinical microbiology at Copenhagen University Hospital.

According to Nilsson-Møller and his team, this test has significant implications for global health, as more than 1 million people die each year from hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Additionally, 650,000 people die of HIV-related causes annually, with 1.5 million new HIV infections occurring each year.

The World Health Organization has set a goal of eliminating all 3 viruses by 2030 as part of its global health strategies. However, achieving this goal requires new tests to reduce case numbers. The current standard for detecting these viruses involves taking a blood sample from a vein using a needle, but this method may not be suitable in certain settings such as prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, and homeless shelters, where safety concerns or logistical challenges may limit its use. Additionally, in resource-limited settings, the shipping and refrigerated storage of blood samples can pose significant challenges.

“It is also suitable for developing countries or places where you run the risk of a blood sample being ruined before it is transferred to a laboratory that can analyse it,” Nilsson-Møller noted. “Blood samples need to be analysed within six hours when kept at room temperature, while dried blood spots can last for nine months without refrigeration.”

The dried blood spot test assessed by Nilsson-Møller and colleagues offers a solution to these challenges. In this test, an individual’s finger is pricked to collect a few drops of blood on filter paper, which is then allowed to dry.

The dried blood spot is then analyzed using the Hologic Panther System—a widely available testing equipment in public health laboratories—using a transcription mediated amplification technique to look for genetic material from the 3 viruses in the blood spot. This analysis is designed to be, and is typically, run on liquid samples of plasma or serum rather than dried samples.

With a total of 60 dried blood samples with known amounts of HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C—20 samples per virus—the test successfully detected the viruses in all samples analyzed. The blood plasma was also diluted to determine the lower limit of detection, which showed that it was possible to detect the 3 viruses at levels much lower than normally found in untreated patients.

“We’ve shown that using existing hospital equipment, it is possible to detect HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C from a single drop of blood,” Nilsson-Møller stated.

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