PCR vs RT
Polymerase chain reaction-based assays lack accessibility of the RT platform
Viral load monitoring is a staple of HIV treatment in developed nations, but traditional platforms, like polymerase chain reaction-based (PCR) assays, involve a level of complexity and cost that make them inaccessible in the countries where they are needed most. The barriers to access include financial challenges, infrastructure issues and personnel demands.
There are three main reasons the RT platform brings a new level of accessibility to viral load monitoring:
Subtype independentThe most significant advantage of the RT platform is that it measures enzyme activity which must be present in all HIV variants, while PCR and other platforms measure an RNA structure which varies with mutations and subtypes. Mutations might change the RT structure, but its function must remain intact – a retrovirus with a dead RT is a dead virus. This allows for quantification in any type or subtype of HIV.
Financially viableThe equipment required to run polymerase chain reaction-based tests and other common platforms is cost-prohibitive in countries with limited resources. The RT platform provides a cost-effective solution that puts viral load monitoring within reach of those who could never have afforded it.
Minimal resource footprintThe technical level of the facilities, the demands for specialized equipment and dedicated clean areas, and the training required to run traditional assays are other obstacles to accessibility. The RT platform runs off standard ELISA equipment found in most labs around the world and has lower demands on staff and lab facilities.