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Highly Effective Method for Screening Drug-resistant Forms of HIV Developed

screenings, which help tailor the most effective anti-HIV treatment before a patient begins or changes drug therapy, developing countries rarely use them. Where resistance testing is available, most screening techniques are not sensitive enough to analyse small populations of drug-resistant strains of HIV.

With a view to increase the sensitivity of HIV screening techniques and decrease the time and cost of the tests, Dr. Bushman examined seven samples of mutated strains of HIV, including three HIV samples from patients who had experienced antiretroviral multi-drug resistance.

The DNA bar coding, wherein different DNA molecules are indexed using DNA sequence tags, helped the researcher map multiple sequences of HIV mutants simultaneously. He identified drug-resistant mutations by using a new DNA sequencing technique called pyrosequencing, which enables determination of millions of bases of a DNA sequence in a single one-day experiment.

When the two methods were combined, the researchers were able to quantify and characterize hundreds of thousands of HIV variants for drug resistance in a single test. The new screening technique also uncovered four rare, minor drug-resistant mutations in the patient samples of HIV that had gone undetected by standard screening measures.

Dr. Bushman believes that these small drug-resistant populations of HIV may explain why some patients do not respond to antiretroviral treatment, as the minor alleles can rapidly grow out, generating new populations of drug-resistant viruses.

He is now planning to apply the new method to optimise drug-resistance testing in the US, and several developing countries.

"Thanks to DNA bar coding and pyrosequencing, clinicians should be able to optimize treatment for their patients with much more relevant information in front of them," says Bushman.


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