DEC 05, 2019 2:07 AM PST

Catching drug-resistant HIV mutants with next generation sequencing

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are treated with antiretroviral therapies to reduce the amount of circulating virus, restore their immune functions and prevent disease transmission. There are around 30 different anti-HIV drugs currently available, with most antiretroviral regimens including a cocktail of 2 or more of these drugs. 

In the best-case scenario, taking antiretroviral drugs daily typically sees patients reaching undetectable levels of virus within 3 to 6 months.

The virus, however, can get the upper hand with its ability to mutate and become completely immune to the virus-killing action of these therapeutics. HIV is a retrovirus and proliferates rapidly, replicating its genome with an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This enzyme is known for its inability to correct errors made during the replication process, which results in an extremely high mutation rate.

This is of particular concern to the global community, with the WHO estimating that in 2018, 23.3 million people were routinely receiving antiretroviral treatment. Rapidly growing levels of resistance to antiviral drugs could significantly undermine the progress made in providing HIV-positive patients with life-saving medical interventions.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the marketing of a new test to detect the presence of drug-resistant HIV. This testing platform makes use of powerful DNA sequencing technology, known as next-generation sequencing, or NGS. 

Unlike early DNA sequencing methods, NGS is incredibly fast, sequencing an entire human genome with unparalleled precision, at a fraction of the cost and in just 24 hours.

Conventional methods of monitoring the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs involve keeping track of the amount of circulating virus in the patient’s bloodstream. A rising viral load, in spite of ongoing therapy, points to the occurrence of drug-resistant mutations and requires a change in regimen to suppress viral proliferation.

The director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Peter Marks, believes NGS technology can be leveraged for more personalized treatment plans.

“Today’s authorization can help health care providers better tailor drug treatment for patients who are beginning antiviral therapy and also for those who have developed resistance to HIV drugs by helping to identify mutations in the HIV-1 virus that can impact the effectiveness of certain drugs,” said Marks at a recent press conference.

The new screening platform, called the Sentosa SQ HIV Genotyping Assay, is a quick, reliable and fully automated system, boasting highly sensitive detection with minimal hands-on time. The technology was developed by Vela Diagnostics, with its global headquarters located in Singapore, and is a big leap forward in the company’s mission to be at the forefront of global molecular diagnostics.

 

Sources: World Health Organization, FDA, Vela Diagnostics.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez is a Cell Biologist who works on commercializing new technology in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies and nanotechnologies. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
JAN 25, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 25, 2020
Novel Chemistry That Allows Faster and Easier Synthesis of New PET Scan Probes
For positron emission tomography (PET) scans, patients are injected with a radioactive probe that emits positrons (a positron is the antimatter of an elect...
JAN 25, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 25, 2020
Are Anti-Ebola Drugs Effective?
A deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) caused by the Ebola virus triggers hemorrhagic fever in humans and some monkeys. The disease is highly infectious and is...
JAN 25, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 25, 2020
Honey As An Antibacterial Against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
Honey has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years to treat wound infections, gastrointestinal ailments, and burns. Because of th...
JAN 25, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 25, 2020
Nanolaser designed to function in brain tissue
Scientists have developed a nanolaser (miniaturized laser) that can function inside living tissues. According to researchers, the laser is about 1/1,000th the thickness of a single human hair...
JAN 25, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 25, 2020
Researchers Develop a Score to Quantify the Risk of Epilepsy
It usually takes two seizures before a person can be diagnosed with epilepsy. New work can help change that....
JAN 25, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 25, 2020
Can I eat this donut? A quick test for celiac disease.
Genetic testing revealed that our ancestors have been eating wheat, rye, spelt and barley for over 8,000 years. Today, gluten, a protein found within these...
Loading Comments...