Scientist creates new TB detection test

Nick Fisk, a scientist at Colorado State University, has begun engineering a molecular assembly that works as well as more complex devices to cheaply and quickly detect tuberculosis, which may have uses in the developing world.

Fisk, an assistant professor of biological and chemical engineering, has received a $100,000 grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation based on the promise of his research.

His methodology is to modify a bacterial virus particle so that it interacts with and identifies active tuberculosis infections without the need for medical facilities or expensive equipment.

“A day in the hospital in the U.S., where you are hooked up to all these machines, costs thousands and thousands of dollars,” Fisk said. “For most of the world, people make one-tenth of that in a year. The idea behind the program is to look for new ways of diagnosing and treating these diseases that are inexpensive and work under conditions where you don’t have the medical facilities and even infrastructure like electricity, refrigeration and clean water that we take for granted in America.”

The process essentially reproduces what a human immune system does when it comes into contact with a protein present in TB. The research will require the testing of billions of protein variants to find the ones that will react in the appropriate way with the TB protein.

Colorado State University is well-known for its tuberculosis research, which includes the testing and development of preventative treatments and potential drugs against the disease.