Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls is the first place in the country to run an important new HIV test that can detect the virus sooner. We were given access in to the hospital's main lab to find out more about this groundbreaking and potentially life saving news.
Avera McKennan Lab Director Leo Serrano describes the Abbott ARCHITECT Analyzer as an extremely high tech, intricate piece of equipment that is now equipped with software to detect HIV sooner in an infected patient (up to a month sooner) by detecting both antibodies as well as HIV antigen--a protein produced by the virus immediately after infection. Previous HIV tests detected only antibodies. The FDA approved this test in June and Avera McKennan is the first facility in the country to run it.
Serrano says, "Abbott actually came to us and said because of our history of quality and the fact that we were the 1st hospital lab in the nation accredited with the ISO 15189 standard, which is the ultimate standard in quality health care, that they chose us over a lot of other places."
Avera Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Aris Assimacopoulos says, "One of the problems with HIV diagnosis is you can be infected, but it takes a while before you develop a positive test so if you rely on the current testing technology sometimes there can be a big lag time. This new testing is using HIV antibody and antigen combination will decrease the lag time so you can have an earlier diagnosis."
The Avera McKennan Core Lab has had analyzer for a year and it is capable of doing 100 tests. Serrano says it's the best in the market at doing specialized hormone testing, detecting drugs of abuse and tests on transplant drugs.
Leo says, "What we've done is add the software and added the test kit to it."
A million people in this country are infected with HIV. 1 in 5 doesn't know it. Although HIV isn't as prevalent in this state, Dr. Assimacopoulos says it is still here.
Dr. Assimacopoulos says, "Knowing you have it decreases your risk of spreading it. The other issue, you are more infectious during that period of initial infection because the virus level tends to be higher, not that you aren't infectious later on, but you have a greater risk of spreading during the early stages of infection."
They run 8,000-9,000 HIV tests a year in the Avera McKennan Lab knowing you have HIV sooner could potentially stop the spread of the disease faster. That's a pretty big deal that started right here.
Abbott has been developing this test for a number of years. It's been available in Europe for 10 years.