WHO approves rapid TB identification machine

Officials with the World Health Organization approved a new machine this week that can identify multi-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis in 90 minutes.

The machine, called the The Xpert MTB/RIF, was developed earlier this year by the Foundation for Innovative new Diagnostics, a Geneva-based non-profit organization, according to Yahoo! Health.

The approval comes on the heels of recent WHO statistics that show that one in three cases of tuberculosis, or approximately 600,000 cases, goes undiagnosed in the Asian-Pacific region, Yahoo! Health reports.

WHO advisor Catharina Van Weezenbeek told Yahoo! Health that the machine, which was developed with the help of the Gates Foundation, detects resistance to the powerful drug rifampicin. She said this identification process would usually take up to six weeks in medical laboratories.

“The machine is the size of a cappuccino machine and is a standalone and can be made available at the district health office level, which means that we can now detect multi-drug strains of TB in just 90 minutes and much more accurately, quickly and cost-effectively,” Van Weezenbeek told Yahoo! Health.

Van Weezenbeek said that the WHO estimates that there are approximately 1.94 million cases of tuberculosis in the Asia-Pacific region. She said only around 1.3 million of these cases are identified due to lack of equipment and laboratory facilities.

“Those cases that are not diagnosed are continuing to spread the disease,” Van Weezenbeck said, Yahoo! Health reports. “The whole idea about TB control is not only to save people but to cut the chain of transmission before the situation worsens.”

Van Weezenbeck said Cambodia, China, the Philippines and Vietnam account for 93 percent of tuberculosis cases in the region.