GIFT (Genital InFlammation Test)
UCT researchers have developed a method that will form the basis for point of care test for diagnosing symptomatic and asymptomatic sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV). STIs and BV cause inflammation in the female genital tract increasing their risk of contracting HIV. In resource-limited settings, BV and STIs are managed according to signs and symptoms since this is easily implementable, relatively inexpensive and patients are given immediate treatment.
A recent study done by researchers at UCT have found that STIs and BV are often present without producing or showing any symptoms (asymptomatic), and women who had asymptomatic infections had the same level of inflammation as women with symptomatic infections. Many women may thus not be aware that they have an infection and hence do not seek healthcare or treatment putting them at increased risk of HIV infections and reproductive complications.
A number of small molecule proteins of the general class of cytokines found in samples collected from the inside of the vagina have proven to be accurate predictors of the presence of BV. Interleukin (IL)-1ÃŽ², interleukin (IL)-1ÃŽ±, interferon-ÃŽ³ induced protein (IP)-10, TNF-ÃŽ±, TNF-ÃŽ², MDC, IL-7, IFN-ÃŽ³ and GRO have all been found to have predictive potential and any combinations of these cytokines may serve as useful biomarkers to identify women with BV.