Researchers Develop Breath-Monitoring Device to Monitor Treatment Adherence Among HIV-Positive People

Researchers at the University of Florida and Xhale have developed a breath-monitoring device that can detect whether people living with HIV/AIDS adhere to their treatment regimens, ANI/Thaindian News reports.

According to Richard Melker, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Florida College of Medicine and chief technology officer at Xhale, the shoebox-sized device makes a beeping sound when it is time for HIV-positive people to take their antiretroviral drugs. If patients do not press a button to signal that they have taken their medication after five minutes, the device begins to beep at an increasingly louder volume until the button is pressed, Melker said. He added that if the button is not pressed after a set amount of time, the device can contact treatment coordinators to indicate that patients did not follow their treatment regimens.

The device also is programmed to record the results of a breath test that measures whether patients have taken their antiretrovirals. Patients can then take a memory card that contains data from the breath tests to antiretroviral clinics once monthly and receive a printed copy of their results, according to Melker.

Melker said treatment adherence decreases the likelihood that HIV will mutate into drug-resistant strains. He added that the device could help prevent the emergence of such strains. Health workers have tried several methods to monitor treatment adherence -- including log books and blister packs that record when the medication is taken -- but directly observed therapy, or DOT, is the only effective method, Melker said. However, DOT often is inconvenient for patients and health workers, he added.

According to Melker, the new device could help address the issue by providing a new way to monitor treatment adherence. Melker said that although the current version of the device works well, he hopes that the technology eventually can be used in a cellular phone. He added that the device also could be used to track treatment adherence in people living with tuberculosis and other illnesses. Melker said that the potential implications of the device in helping health officials understand why some patients adhere to treatment regimens and others do not is "huge" (ANI/Thaindian News, 4/22).

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