CHICAGO (AP) â€” Tests that help identify drug-resistant strains of the AIDS virus should be routinely used in most infected patients to help doctors customize treatment, according to a recommendation in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Patients with drug-resistant strains are at greater risk of developing full-blown AIDS.
Because the AIDS virus tends to mutate rapidly, becoming resistant to drugs, patients generally receive a combination of medicines. But initial treatment fails in about half of all AIDS patients, and doctors frequently have to change the treatment to keep up with mutations.
In today's journal, a panel of the International AIDS Society-USA said doctors should consider routine testing for virtually all HIV-infected patients except those whose infection is already being successfully treated.
Two types of tests help determine resistance: Genotype tests identify genetic mutations known to be resistant. And phenotype tests determine whether a drug will kill a patient's virus strain.
Both tests are costly, running about $400 to $1,000 each, Dr. Charles Flexner of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in an accompanying editorial. Also, it can take up to a month to get results, and the tests are not foolproof and may produce false-negative results, he said.
The International AIDS Society-USA is a nonprofit program for doctors involved in HIV and AIDS care. It works to improve AIDS treatment.
On the Net: JAMA: http://jama.ama-assn.org