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Posts Tagged ‘TB’

Advances in Diagnosing Tuberculosis

by admin on: December 16th, 2011

Tuberculosis, known more commonly as TB, is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. People diagnosed with TB usually present with the following symptoms: coughing up blood and/or mucus, chills, fever, general weakness or fatigue, night sweats, weight loss. Treating TB is notoriously time and resource intensive, usually involving several medicines over a long period of time. If a patient does not receive proper treatment, TB may be deadly. TB kills approximately 1.8 million people a year – mostly in developing countries with high poverty rates and limited medical care.

The current test for TB is about 125 years old, very slow, and sometimes inaccurate. The inadequacy of the current test is best exemplified by the fact that many TB patients spread the infection after they are examined but before the results are available. It is estimated that an undiagnosed patient with TB can infect upwards of 10 to 15 people each year.

A study conducted on a new test (Xpert(R) MTB/RIF) for diagnosing TB was published in an issue ofThe New England Journal of Medicine(September 2010). The results from this study suggest that this new test can diagnose a case of TB in slightly less than two hours. In addition, the accuracy of this test is far superior to the previously used test (data indicated that the Xpert (R) MTB/RIF test identified approximately 98 percent of all TB cases that were culture-confirmed). Another important advance in this new test is that it can reveal if a patient has contracted a version of TB that is drug resistant (97 percent of the patients tested) to the most commonly used drug to treat TB (rifampicin; RIF).

In the United States, an improved test would be advantageous, especially for inner city clinics where a drug-resistant strain of TB could be properly diagnosed and properly treated/managed. In developing nations, a new and more efficient TB test would be revolutionary.