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Rapid Test for Tuberculosis Developed

A rapid, accurate and inexpensive test for tuberculosis has been developed by a researcher based at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. The test is called TB Read.

Tuberculosis cases are becoming more prevalent, leading the World Health Organization to place tuberculosis back on the list of the top ten killer diseases (a list of the diseases that kill the most people, globally, each year). There is also an increase in cases in countries like the U.S. In Texas alone, there were 1,334 cases reported in 2015.

Tuberculosis is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis may infect any part of the body, but most commonly occurs in the lungs.

The rise in incidences of tuberculosis means that considerable effort needs to be put into stopping the disease from spreading. Part of the control and containment strategy involves early detection. This is where the new Texas A&M University Health Science Center test comes in. The test has been designed by Dr. Jeffrey D. Cirillo.

The new test works by using a fluorescent substrate which targets an enzyme produced by Mycobacteria. The substrate causes the bacteria in the patient’s sample of sputum (the saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory system) to ‘glow.’ The fluorescence can then be detected using a tiny battery-powered reader.

The test kit is called TB Read and it is said to be able to detect up to 80 percent of cases that would be missed using conventional tests. The time to result with the new method is around ten minutes.
The test can also work without the need for a sputum sample. The test kit can detect very small amounts of the causative agent directly in the lungs. This is accomplished by using light and a compound delivered by aerosol straight to the site of infection and detecting it with the same system. This makes the test suitable for children. Children often struggle to produce sufficient sputum for standard tuberculosis tests.

Discussing the advantages in a research note, Dr. Cirillo explains: “This florescent substrate has many advantages over others we’ve tried. Most importantly, it has greater sensitivity than other methods and can reveal infections within organs deep inside the body.”

Details of the test and supporting data have been reported to the journal Angewandte Chemie. The research paper is titled “Fluorogenic Probes with Substitutions at the 2 and 7 Positions of Cephalosporin are Highly BlaC-Specific for Rapid Mycobacterium tuberculosis Detection.”

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