A 15-year-old girl might have made HIV tests as easy as pregnancy tests

Craig Gastauer

Craig Gastauer is a Biology Teacher in San Diego County. He is working to understand how he can improve the student experience for all students at his high school. Follow him on Twitter at @CG_Bioteach


Nicole TiceaNicole Ticea‘s HIV test invention is a long way from widespread use, but it’s a start.

HIV testing is necessary, but it can be embarrassing, it’s hard, and it takes a while for results … and in some places, it’s expensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of all Americans age 13 and older who are living with HIV (1,201,100), an estimated 160,300, or 13%, don’t even know they have HIV. It is a youth issue.

HIV testing usually requires expensive lab equipment and time to process the test. But Nicole used a new method called isothermal nucleic acid amplification, which means that tests can be done anywhere — potentially, even in remote locations around the world — and quickly. Then she found a way to test for the HIV virus itself rather than for humans’ reaction to it, which means the virus can be detected much sooner — as early as one week after infection.

“The test is still a long way from widespread use, with its reliability needing to pass far more stringent review, before commercial partners can even be considered,” reads the article. “Multiple HIV testing mechanisms exist, but none are considered perfect, leading to the widespread combination of two testing mechanisms to minimize the danger of false results. In this context, Ticea’s work could easily find a niche.

“The test won Ticea first place in the British Columbia 2014 Regional Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge, a contest for high school students to produce biotechnology projects. Entries are judged on a combination of originality and scientific merit (30%), execution (30%) and their ability to communicate their work (40%).”

Although a lot is still needed to be done to complete the work but this is surely one step closer to a healthier and safer world.

“While Ticea’s work could prove world changing,” continues the article, “the other 15 entries from her province (also) give an idea how much scientific talent is lurking in high schools.”

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