The King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital will be using a GeneXpert machine for the first time in Mumbai to test the viral load in HIV patients. GeneXpert machines are generally used to test drug resistant TB for first line drug Rifampicin. But for the first time in Mumbai, KEM hospital will be using the GeneXpert to test the viral load in HIV patients.
Viral load is the indicator of number of viruses in the body. The viral load test is the effective way to determine the status of HIV infection in a person diagnosed with the disease and whether the treatment is working on the patient or not.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr, Shashikala Acharya, Additional Project Director of Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society (MDACS) confirmed about the development and said, “So far, GeneXpert machine has been in used to test TB. But there have been multiple researches done on whether GeneXxpert could also be used to test viral load in HIV patients. Now, the new GeneXpert machine in KEM will be used to test HIV viral load. But GeneXpert machine hasn’t been included in national AIDS program yet.”
The machine is donated to KEM by Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The machine has been delivered in KEM Hospital and expected to be fully functional in next few months.
At various testing centers in Mumbai, machines made by other companies are used to test the HIV viral load. According to the experts in KEM Hospital, GeneXpert will be a significant improvement over the machines which are currently in used to test the HIV viral load. “Compared to the existing system of HIV viral load using real time PCR which requires skilled manpower, expensive infrastructure and where results are available in one or two days, The Xpert based assay is a closed, cartridge based, simple, fully automated platform which provides results within two hours. It requires an uninterrupted power supply, voltage stabiliser and an air conditioned room. The simplicity of the test without compromising accuracy, makes it a more suitable platform for greater reach and has the potential to benefit more patients,” said Dr Gita Nataraj, Microbiologist in KEM Hospital.
According to a study published in Lancet, India alone has acquired more than 750 GeneXpert systems in the public sector and more than 100 systems in the private sector. The study also says that GeneXpert systems are often underused because of high cost, restrictive algorithms, inadequate decentralization, exclusion of the private sector from concessional pricing, and weak implementation of policies. Emphasizing on the need for integration of tuberculosis and HIV services the study advocates the use of GeneXpert technology for HIV viral load testing.