Rapid TB testing may transform global health care

Rapid TB testing may transform global healthcare | Courtesy of

Scientists recently created a rapid antimicrobial resistance test that allows health professionals to diagnose and treat tuberculosis (TB) faster than ever, which may lead to a transformation of global health care.

The researchers, funded by the European Union as part of the PATHSEEK project, have sped this process by extracting mucus samples and engineering RNA molecules to bind to TB’s DNA. Routine samples from 34 patients in Lithuania and London were used to test this new method.

The current test is founded on whole genome sequencing. This sequencing offers a kind of printed version of a patient’s complete genetic code, allowing medical staff to more accurately determine the exact mutations of drug-resistant TB. This, in turn, enables health professionals to personalize treatments for each patient. Unfortunately, this testing method requires weeks to successfully sequence genomes for measurement.

TB, an infectious disease, is transmitted through the air. Experts estimate that one person dies from TB every 24 seconds. In 2013 alone, between 1.3 and 1.5 million fatalities were associated with TB, the majority of which occurred in developing countries. Unfortunately, TB rates have increased in some areas of London, making those rates as high as the ones found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

TB continues to be a health concern as its drug-resistant strains are becoming more common. These strains are a huge pressure for health professionals, who must discover faster diagnoses and more accurate treatments for TB patients.