The Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University Medical Center has been awarded a $7.6 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to expand its efforts to standardize and improve the quality of a crucial blood test used in the treatment of millions of HIV patients worldwide.
The Duke program centers on the testing of cells called CD4 cells, which are the immune system’s main defense against HIV. HIV weakens and overwhelms the immune system by attacking and killing these CD4 cells. Doctors test the blood of HIV patients to measure the number of CD4 cells present, and the results reveal how much damage the virus has done to the immune system. For patients taking antiretroviral drugs, or those who have received experimental HIV vaccines, CD4 cell counts also reveal whether those interventions are effective.