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Cytometry B Clin Cytom. 2008;74 Suppl 1:S27-39. doi: 10.1002/cyto.b.20414.

Affordable CD4 T-cell enumeration for resource-limited regions: a status report for 2008.

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National HIV and Retrovirology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, and International Centre for Infectious Diseases, Winnipeg MB, Canada.

Erratum in

  • Cytometry B Clin Cytom. 2009 Jan;76(1):63-5.



The global struggle with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the battle to develop affordable CD4 T-cell counting technology are both unfulfilled goals in 2008. The need for such instrumentation is more critical now as implementation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is in progress in many resource limited regions. Major scaling-up efforts in rural situations are difficult to implement without laboratory infrastructure. CD4 T-cell counting is especially critical when trying to reach individuals with HIV to have them enrolled in ART as soon as they qualify for treatment based on CD4 count.


This review covers both the chronological evolution and the scientific milestones of technological development of affordable immunophenotyping. It is more focused on flow cytometry but does consider the potential contribution by digital image cytometry.


Thus far flow cytometry offered only modest progress toward affordable immunophenotyping. A list with desirable features is offered for side by side comparison. Digital image cytometry has yet to show its enormous affordable market potential.


It is possible to develop truly affordable, portable flow cytometry but it is not here yet. There are some hopeful signs as there are innovative and practical technical components appearing at regular intervals. However, so far the technical breakthroughs have been fragmented efforts without any attempts to consider intercorporate collaboration to optimize critical mass and synergy. The smaller players in the industry have made some progress toward meeting the monumental needs in Africa and Asia. Digital image cytometry may well be the ultimate winner in the affordable technology race.

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