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Faster test for MDR-TB

7th July 2008

World health experts have unveiled a new diagnostic test for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) which could mean patients are getting the treatment they need in a few days, rather than having to wait months.

tbpatient

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners are launching two projects with a total of nearly $60 million in funding to make available technology for the new molecular test, known as a line probe assay.

Until now, this method of diagnosing MDR-TB was only available in research labs. Over the next four years, it will become available, administered by trained lab staff using special facilities in 16 countries where the strain of TB is rife.

The countries will receive the tests through the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility, which provides countries with both drugs and diagnostic supplies, WHO said in a statement.

WHO experts will also help them prepare for installation and use of the new tests, ensuring biosafety standards and the capacity to perform tests accurately.

The tests are ready to be rolled out in Lesotho, and will be ready in Ethiopia by the end of the year.

The tests will be phased in during 2009-2011 in the remaining 14 countries.

A related project will boost funding for the supply of drugs used to treat MDR-TB, and achieve price reductions of up to 20% for second-line TB drugs by 2010.

The projects mean that people with MDR-TB will end up with a much faster diagnosis.

MDR-TB, defined as TB that responds poorly to standard TB drugs isoniazid and rifampicin, is a fast-growing problem in areas worst affected by TB, but it is estimated that only 2% of cases are being diagnosed.

Often patients are only tested for MDR-TB once traditional TB drugs fail to work. Current diagnostic tests can take a further 2-3 months, during which time the patient could infect many other people, and by which time they may also have died of the disease.


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