New TB test may change how poorer countries find TB

A new molecular tuberculosis test called Xpert MTB/RIF may change the way TB and multi-drug resistant TB is found in low and middle income countries, according to a scientist from the Foundations for Innovative New Diagnostics.

Dr. Mark Perkins, chief scientific officer of the FFIND, spoke to journalists in Berlin from November 11 to 15, prior to the 41st Union World Conference on Lung Health. Perkins said that his organization conducted a study that proved Xpert MTB/RIF capable of detecting TB in less time than any current diagnostics, according to HealthDev.net.

Evaluations trials for Xpert MTB/RTF, which tests for TB based on polymerase chain reaction amplification, were conducted in South Africa, Peru, India, Azerbaijan and Germany, HealthDev.net reports.

The study used TB patients and suspected TB patients, successfully identifying 98 percent of all culture-confirmed TB cases and over 90 percent of those with smear-negative disease. In less than two hours, the test was able to identify 95 percent of those with TB resistant to rifampicin, according to HealthDev.net.

“This is a major revolution in the diagnosis of TB but the problem is that it has to work where there is electricity and the cost of the machine is still high," Perkins said, HealthDev.net reports. "Work has to be done to come up with lower cost versions of the technology which do not require electricity. It shouldn’t be difficult for countries such as India and China to copy the technology and develop something that is affordable. My vision is to see the detection of TB becoming as simple as that of pregnancy."