New device drastically lowers TB detection time

Switzerland's Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics has developed a new device to test specimens for drug-resistant tuberculosis that reduces the typical cell culture testing time from two weeks to two hours.

While a standard microscopy diagnosis of TB can be almost immediate, a diagnosis of multi-drug resistant strains of the mycobacterium that causes the disease takes close to two weeks. This new device uses a quick DNA-analysis to make the diagnosis in a fraction of the time, according to Med Gadget.

The sample is treated with alcohol and sodium hydroxide to kill any TB before it is fed into a device that analyzes the DNA. The machine then gives a simple report that states whether or not TB is present and the organism's resistance status. Each individual test costs $17.

The machine itself costs $17,000. If machines could be present in low-income or resource-poor areas, Med Gadget reports, this would quickly help those infected to undergo treatment specifically for multi-drug resistant strains. Tuberculosis is major problem throughout the world, especially in poverty stricken areas.

According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, over 13 million people were infected with tuberculosis in 2007. The organization has a goal to reduce TB cases to 1 case per million people by 2050.