Gum test as effective as blood test in detecting HIV: Study

A new gum test that collects mouth fluids can diagnose HIV as accurately as traditional blood tests, a new study led by an Indian-origin scientist claims.

Researchers at the McGill University in Quebec compared field studies from five global databases of two rapid test methods -- blood tests and an oral fluid test, called OraQuick HIV 1/2.

The team, which detailed its finding in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, found that the saliva HIV test was 99 per cent accurate for HIV in high-risk populations and about 97 per cent in low-risk populations.

"If you are really talking about bringing the virus to its knees... the oral test is one more way for people to find out their status," lead author Dr Nitika Pant Pai, a McGill medical scientist, was quoted as saying by 'The Star' online.

Developed by Pennsylvania-based OraSure Technologies Inc, OraQuick test is the only oral fluid test approved for use in a health-care setting by the Food and Drug Administration in the US. The test is not yet available for home use.

According to Dr Pai, the test offers enormous potential in communities where stigma and discrimination prevent people from getting tested at clinics. It's also less-invasive and more convenient than its blood-drawing counterpart, she said.

"With blood tests, it's not so easy and some people have a phobia of collecting their own blood. The swab is easy to implement and use. People called it a candy stick." The oral test involves a device that absorbs fluid called oral mucosal transudate in the mouth's blood vessels. Users swab the cotton-tipped stick around their entire outer gums and place the stick into the bottom of the vial filled with enzyme solution.

A reddish-purple line appears at the top of the stick if HIV antibodies are found. The line does not mean a positive result, but that a reaction took place. The user would then consult a doctor for a test to confirm the result.

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