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Published on 2 September 2010

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TB test set to transform diagnosis

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A new study could lead to quicker and more accurate detection systems for TB.

Cepheid has created a molecular test that not only diagnoses TB but can detect a drug-resistant form of the condition much more quickly than current tests, according to US researchers.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reports that in the study of 1,730 patients suspected of having tuberculosis and drug-resistant TB, 98% of all cases were successfully diagnosed using the Xpert MTB/RIF test.

Patients with a form of TB resistant to powerful TB drug rifampin (or rifampicin) were correctly identified in 98% of cases and in less than two hours.

The findings are “impressive” in terms of speed, accuracy and sensitivity, according to Anthony Fauci at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Within two hours, you can not only have a diagnosis, but you can also have a good idea of the range of drugs you can use,” he said.

Current TB tests are based on using trained experts doing microscopy in laboratories, a method which has not significantly changed in 125 years and can take weeks to complete.

India, China and Sub-Saharan Africa have the worst problems with TB, which is linked to poverty. It is also common in HIV patients and killed 1.8 million people worldwide in 2008, equivalent to a person every 20 seconds.

Copyright Press Association 2010

The New England Journal of Medicine



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