New test may decrease TB death rates for HIV patients in sub-Saharan Africa

TB Centre publishes biennial report
TB Centre publishes biennial report | Courtesy of

A team of scientists have developed a cost-efficient, simple, 25-minute urine test that diagnoses tuberculosis (TB) in HIV patients, which may be able to decrease the TB death rates among these patients in hospitals.

Approximately 40 percent of adult deaths in Africa connected to HIV or AIDS are because of TB. Approximately 50 percent of these TB cases are not treated or diagnosed before the patient dies, according to a report published in The Lancet, which detailed a study conducted to evaluate the test.

The study included 2,528 patients with HIV at 10 hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa. The patients received routine testing for TB and the new urine test, or the routine test alone. Eight weeks after discharge, the study found a fewer deaths among those who received both tests and were treated for TB, as opposed to those who had not been treated for TB. 

"This is the first trial of any diagnostic test for tuberculosis to show a reduction in the number of deaths,” Professor Keertan Dheda, the senior author and project supervisor from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said. The reduction in mortality is likely to be because urine-testing, in conjunction with routine testing, resulted in a greater proportion of patients starting tuberculosis treatment early.”

This new test could transform health care in sub-Saharan Africa.

"When used in conjunction with routine testing, urine-testing for tuberculosis reduced the TB death rate of HIV patients in hospital,” Dheda said. “Importantly, we found that the test was particularly effective in identifying tuberculosis among patients with advanced HIV infection who are most vulnerable to advanced TB disease. The absolute reduction in mortality was small at 4 percent, but with 300,000 patients with HIV dying from tuberculosis in Africa every year, implementing this low-cost, rapid, bedside test could potentially save thousands of lives annually."

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The Lancet University of Cape Town

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