New Horizons: CD4 test on the frontline

Tracy Parish

14 January, 2013

“It’s easy to diagnose HIV but it’s hard to identify those who need therapy. Our test will change that, providing cost-effective testing for up to 33 million patients worldwide.” — Associate Professor David Anderson, Burnet Institute

After six years of development in the laboratory, Burnet scientists have developed the VISITECT® CD4, an affordable point-of-care (POC) test aimed at reaching HIV patients around the world.

Here is a short excerpt of the feature story that appeared in the latest edition of IMPACT.

Co-Head of the Centre for Virology and infectious diseases physician, Professor Suzanne Crowe AM and Associate Professor Stanley Luchters, acting Co-head of Burnet’s Centre for International Health, will undertake field validation studies in early 2013 in sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea to determine the feasibility of the test.

The first of these projects is supported by a USD$250,000 grant from the Grand Challenges Saving Lives at Birth Initiative, jointly funded by USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). The VISITECT® CD4 test was one of 15 innovations to receive the award from more than 500 applications worldwide.

Over 15 months, the project will involve 275 HIV-infected pregnant women, with 150 women taking part from South Africa and 125 from Kenya.

“In southern Africa, about half of maternal mortality and a third of infant mortality can be attributed to HIV infection. Nearly half a million babies are born each year with HIV – almost all children under 15 with HIV have got it from their mothers,” Associate Professor Luchters said.

“If this new test is carried out at the first antenatal visit after HIV-infection has been detected in pregnant women, it could allow for rapid initiation of antiretroviral interventions and save the lives of thousands of HIV-infected pregnant women and prevent infection in their newborn infants.”

Associate Professor Luchters said in Sub-Saharan Africa HIV- infected women usually come late to antenatal clinics and often only come once. They need treatment to prevent mother-to-baby transmission but many rural settings don’t have a laboratory close by so it can take weeks for the results to come back, and you need to rely on the mother to return to the clinic.


Associate Professor Anderson and his team are now planning for a test that can be used in a similar way to the VISITECT® CD4 diagnostic to determine when hepatitis B-infected patients need to go on antiviral therapy.

“In China there are about 250 million people suffering from chronic hepatitis B with very few of them being regularly tested for the amount of virus (viral load) or liver disease (ALT) because it’s just too difficult,” he said.

Find out more about the VISITECT® CD4 diagnostic and projects in the 2012 Summer edition of IMPACT.

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Tracy Parish

Executive General Manager, Marketing and Communications




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