Australian researchers develop fast, inexpensive TB test

Researchers at the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have come up with a quick and inexpensive way to accurately detect tuberculosis (TB) in developing countries.

As reported in the American Chemical Society's peer-reviewed research journal ACS Sensors, the research team used a new type of nucleic acid amplification test that doesn't require costly lab equipment. They also replaced the expensive fluorescence detector with a colorimetric assay in which the TB test results can be viewed with the naked eye. The method was extended to low-cost and disposable electrochemical sensors to achieve more sensitivity.

The new TB-detecting method was developed to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease in communities with limited resources as the assays are fast-acting, inexpensive and highly specific to the bacterium that causes TB.

Current methods to diagnose TB include a skin test and culturing the bacterium. The first could result in false positives while the latter can take weeks to be completed. Additionally, while fast and precise, the method of using the original nucleic acid amplification test is costly and must be done in a lab.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that one-third of the global population is infected with TB, with 1.5 million deaths related to the disease in 2014.

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