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HIV Monitoring: Could this be a Potential Future Opportunity for Pharmacists?

November 28, 2016

HIV has been both a medical and societal scourge since first identified as a deadly disease within the US in the early 1980s. Over the decades, research resulting in new pharmacological treatment such as anti-retroviral therapy has resulted in improved survival and increased quality of life. The improved survival and quality is life is primarily due to decreasing viral load to near zero. Traditionally, viral load monitoring via a blood sample requires about 3 days for results. However, in many parts of the world with a large HIV population such testing does not exist at all. Having a testing method which would be more convenient and expedient may have potential benefits to not just identify patients with new disease but also assist in improved survival and improved quality of life.


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Recently, scientists at the Imperial College London and DNA Electronics have just announced the development of a HIV test performed on a USB stick. A drop of blood is placed in the USB stick which then creates an electrical signal which allows monitoring the viral load within 30 minutes.  1 A recent report in the journal Scientific Reports measured 991 blood samples with an accuracy of 95% with an average time of producing a reading was 20.8 minutes.  2 Dr. Graham Cooke one of the lead researchers stated “ although the technology is in its early stages, this technology could assist patients in monitoring their viral load the same way people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar.” The technology has enormous possibilities including monitoring for hepatitis or potentially detecting bacterial or fungal infections.  1

Portable technology such as this may have potential opportunities for pharmacists. The ability for patients to be monitored in the community and have immediate point-of-care results can have the pharmacist work in collaboration with the patients’ health care provider to make immediate therapeutic changes which would result in improved patient outcomes. As technology such as this continue to grow in many therapeutic areas pharmacists must seize the opportunity to be actively involved “on the ground floor” in this area of technology. As these devices enter the market pharmacist must publish data on outcomes of their involvement and value in producing favorable patient outcomes. Time will tell if pharmacists accept these challenges of accepting and participating in this technology or allow other healthcare practitioners to seize this opportunity.


  1. Imperial College London. HIV test performed on USB stick. Accessed November 12, 2016.
  2. Gurrala R et al. Novel pH sensing semiconductor for point-of-care detection of HIV-1 viremia. Scientific Reports 2016. Article number: 36000.
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