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New Test Can Diagnose TB Within An Hour

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New Test Can Diagnose TB Within An Hour

New quick tuberculosis tests hope to reduce the risks of infection…

Scientists at the UK’s Health Protection Agency have developed a new test for tuberculosis that they claim can diagnose the disease within one hour.

The new ultra-sensitive test slashes the waiting time typically associated with a test for TB, and this ability to diagnose people quicker could drastically reduce the risks of the disease spreading.

new test to diagnose tb New Test Can Diagnose TB Within An Hour

New Test To Diagnose TB

Standard test for TB involves cultivating bacteria in the mucus coughed up from the patient’s lung. Even under optimal conditions in a laboratory, the process takes time – usually about 8 weeks – before a diagnosis can be determined.

During this time, a patient infected with TB, could be passing it on to others.

The new test works by amplifying the volume of DNA taken from the patient – using a technique known as a “polymerase chain reaction” – then analyzing the DNA for a specific genetic signature they say is present in all strains of the disease.

HPA’s Dr Cath Arnold, who led the study said:

“This is a new test, we’re looking for a genetic marker which is present in all strains of TB we’ve seen so far…

“We’re confident that it will pick up very small amounts and tests so far have show that it seems to be as sensitive as the gold standard of using culture, but there are various aspects which we need to develop further before we can offer it as an off-the-shelf product.”

Another rapid test has also been recently developed. The Xpert MTB/RIF test can diagnose all strains of TB within 2 hours, according to its developers. They say their device could also be used to identify resistance to TB drugs.

Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the World Health Organization’s Stop TB department, praised the new test saying that they could revolutionize TB treatment:

“The diagnoses of TB is extremely difficult today. If you had a test which rapidly and at the point of care could detect TB immediately you would gain weeks or months in treating that person and avoid them going around for another five to eight weeks infecting others.”

In 2008, the World Health Organization estimated that 1.3 million people worldwide died from TB, and recent years have seen rise in the number of cases in developed countries, largely due to the increase in resistant strains.

According to provisional figures from the HPA, last year in Britain the number of cases rose by more than 5%, and more than a third of the cases were in London.

Details of new test are being presented at the HPA’s annual conference at the University of Warwick.


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  1. Neil Bowdler UK scientists devise ‘one-hour test’ for TB. BBC, 15/09/2010.

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