With the development of antiretroviral therapies and the increase of the life expectancy of people with HIV, there have been very important advances in the knowledge of the affectations that the virus and medication can have on the central nervous system (CNS). From the first weeks of infection, HIV can cause alterations at a cognitive and motor level, with a great negative impact on the quality of life and the daily functioning of the people who suffer from them.
One of the most important challenges for doctors and psychologists who work with these patients is to diagnose these deficits as soon as possible. To make it possible, several clinical factors can be taken into account, mainly the number of CD4 cells in the blood or the time lived with HIV. However, evaluation through properly validated neuropsychological tests is the most recommended clinical method to diagnose this type of problem. In this context, researchers from the Fight AIDS Foundation led by psychologist José A. Muñoz-Moreno, have presented a new method for a short and accessible evaluation: the NEU Screen.
Its usefulness has been recognized internationally and has been published in the scientific journal JAIDS, one of the most outstanding in the field of HIV/AIDS.
The time required to apply this method is less than 10 minutes and the tests included are applied on paper. The patient is asked to perform certain tasks to measure the speed of information processing, executive functioning and verbal fluency. Once this process is finished, the score obtained by the patient in each test should be checked to determine whether or not there are alterations. The novelty does not consist in the type of tests, which have been widely used in clinical neuropsychology; what is innovative is the combination of these and the fact that they have been validated for the first time in people with HIV.
In the study, which has lasted more than three years, 106 HIV people with different clinical characteristics from seven Catalan centers participated. It is the first multicentre study in this area carried out in Spain.
El NEU Screen podrá ser utilizado a partir de ahora como herramienta para establecer el diagnóstico de trastornos neurocognitivos asociados al VIH, y también como recurso en aquellos centros que no dispongan de recursos en neuropsicología, principalmente en países con una renta per cápita baja. En un futuro cercano, el NEU podría aplicarse en otras enfermedades neurológicas con perfiles de afectación similar, como pueden ser el Parkinson o la esclerosis múltiple.
The NEU Screen can now be used as a tool to establish the diagnosis of neurocognitive disorders associated with HIV, and also as a solution for those centers that do not have resources in neuropsychology, mainly in countries with a low per capita income. In the near future, the NEU could be applied in other neurological diseases with a similar affectation profile, such as Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis.