Scientists in the US are developing a new saliva test that may be able to detect HIV faster and more reliably than current oral tests.
The test, being developed by researchers at Stanford University, is reportedly able to detect the virus as soon as two weeks after exposure.
A recent preliminary study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, showed the test was 100 percent accuracte at detecting HIV.
Researchers said if larger studies produce similar results, the technology will represent an important tool in the fight against the virus.
When screening people for HIV, the researchers explained, health providers often make a difficult choice between a reliable blood test that fewer people will volunteer for, or a more convenient, cheaper and less invasive test using saliva that is less reliable during the early stages of infection.
But the level of HIV antibodies in saliva is far lower, challenging researchers’ attempts to make a more reliable oral test. HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva.
Professor Carolyn Bertozzi from Stanford University said turning HIV antigens into a DNA signature that can be amplified and identified was the key to the new test.
“You can’t amplify a protein. But if you can somehow convert the protein to a DNA signature, then you can amplify the DNA,” she said.
“Our hope is that [the new test] can get an earlier read than the present oral test because the sensitivity is better.”
The researchers say it will take more studies to confirm the results of the new test before it reaches the market.
It could potentially be used for allergy testing and to test for other viruses such as measles in the future.
Earlier this month, US scientists reported they were making progress on a slow-release pill that could be taken just once a week to treat HIV, replacing the daily medication people living with HIV need.