15-Year-Old Creates Faster, Cheaper HIV Test
A teenage girl from Canada who won first place in the British Columbia 2014 Regional Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge has developed a faster, cheaper HIV test that may change the way we look at the virus.
IFL Science reports that Nicole Ticea, a 10th grader at the private girl's York House School in Vancouver developed a test for HIV using Isothermic Nucleic Acid Amplification.
The test allows users to place a drop of blood on a chip and receive an almost instant response whether they are infected. Rather than searching for antibodies to HIV, as most HIV tests do, the technique amplifies the virus itself, even revealing a positive response during the window during which people are infected, are highly infectious but still show up as negative on other antibody tests because the immune system has yet to gear up its response.
"Being in the lab really reinforced what I already knew," Ticea says. "That scientific research involves dedication, determination, long hours and a deep-rooted love for the field that makes sacrifices worthwhile." Nevertheless, she still managed to keep up her studies and extracurricular activities while developing the test since starting on it in October.
Working as part of a collaboration with Simon Fraser University, the 15-year-old was paired with Associate Professor Mark Brockman and grad student Gursev Anmole.
"What Nicole has accomplished gave me a bigger picture on my own work, which involves analyzing immunity controlling T-cell receptors to see how they can be used in developing an HIV vaccine," said Anmole.
Brockman told VanCity Buzz that she was trying to develop a simple way to identify the viral ribonucleic acid when she applied existing technology to scan for HIV.
The test could be beneficial for remote regions in Africa where access to labs is not readily available. And its quick response can detect whether an individual has been infected much earlier than other tests, even during the two or three week window when the antibodies have not fully developed.
"There is a need to identify these people during acute infection, it has always been a limitation of the rapid and easy tests that are available now where infected people are probably overlooked," said Dr. Brockman.
Ticea's entry will go to the national final soon; if she emerges as one of the two winners, she will go to the world final in San Diego this June.