Sunday, November 27, 2011

Viral load in hepatitis B: Indian scientists discover a DNA probe

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: City scientists have designed a new DNA probe that
could accurately tell doctors the number of copies of virus in hepatitis B
patients for easy monitoring of the disease.

This is the first indigenously developed DNA probe for detection of "viral
load" (number of copies of the virus) in hepatitis B patients. It has 100 per
cent sensitivity result and can detect all sub-types of hepatitis B virus.
Further, the new DNA probe will cut down the cost of diagnostic tests as it is
designed in the country.

"During diagnosis of hepatitis B virus, chances are that certain sub-types are
not detected. Moreover, for the virus to be detected it has to be present in
certain number. Our DNA probe saves money for patients and help doctors to
change the treatment modalities as it tells them whether or not the patient is
responding to the treatment," said senior scientist Dr MN Khaja.

Dr Khaja and other city scientists Dr Naresh Yalamanchili, Dr Syed
Rahmatullah, Dr Madhavi Chandra, Dr Vishnupriya Satti, Dr Ramachandra
Rao and Dr M Aejaz Habeeb are part of the team that designed the new DNA
probe. They are from the Centre for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Owaisi
Hospital and Research Centre, and Department of Genetics, Osmania
University. Since the probe does not skip any of the virus varieties present in
the patient, it will give the exact viral load he or she is suffering from.

The higher the viral load the greater the severity of the disease. Hepatitis B
positive patients are put on six or 24 weeks of treatment regimen and during
this period the viral load is accessed at regular intervals. If the viral load
comes down, it means the patient is responding to the treatment. If the patient
is not responding, the doctor will change the treatment mode. The city team's
DNA probe helps in this process.

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