Study demonstrates potential effectiveness of DNA TB testing

A new study suggests that a new tuberculosis test could potentially lower the prevalence of the highly-contagious illness in southern Africa.

The study, produced by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, showed that an automatic DNA test called Xpert could reduce TB rates by up to 28 percent in southern Africa, according to

Lead author Nicolas Menzies, a Ph.D. candidate in health policy at HSPH, said that Xpert is more sensitive than traditionally used diagnostic tests, which have an accuracy rate that is close to 50 percent.

"This test is one of the most significant developments in TB control options in many years," Menzies said, reports. "Our study is the first to look at the long-term consequences of this test when incorporated into routine health programs."

Menzies and his colleagues used mathematical models to determine the effect of using the test over 10- and 20- year periods in five southern African countries.

"Adopting this test does look like it would do what's promised," Menzies said, according to

Menzies said that the test would reduce the number of deaths and, ultimately, the number of cases, but it would not have an effect on the overall incidence rate.

A larger number of countries have begun adopting Xpert since it was recommended by the World Health Organization as a cost effective means of limiting TB.