Researchers at the Australia's Burnet Institute have created a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for measuring CD4 T-cells, the marker of the immune system for people with HIV and AIDS.

Through rapid measurement of CD4 protein in blood samples derived from a simple finger prick, the kit enable patients to receive appropriate treatment sooner without having to wait for lab test results that usually require a second visit.

The technique uses simple lateral flow immunochromatographic method incorporated into a rapid test kit design, comparable to a home pregnancy kit.

Preliminary clinical trials are showing positive results and the estimated cost for the kit is less than $2, said researchers.

The development of an instrument reader particularly designed for usage of CD4 test in labs and physician clinics is now being looked into, through recent joined efforts between Burnet Institute and an Australian biomedical applications company, Axxin Ltd.

Institute Burnet's Associate Professor David Anderson said the point-of-care test was easy to use and reliable, in his speech at the University of California.

He said while the result could simply be read visually in the field, the new reader would ensure the interpretation of the results was not subjected to operator variation, and also would offer a valuable resource for training in proper use and interpretation of the CD4 test.

The new test kit and reader are significant advancements and will be able to guide treatment decisions at the point-of-care without extensive training or sophisticated equipment and should lead to improved access to antiretroviral drugs, especially in developing and resource-constrained countries, he said.