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'One-hour' TB test developed

15th September 2010

Scientists from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) have developed a test which can detect the existence of the tuberculosis bacterium in 60 minutes.

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The "ultra-sensitive" test can locate all types of tuberculosis. Figures from the World Health Organisation showed that around 1.3 million people died from the disease in 2008.

The current test for TB uses mucus coughed from a patient's lungs to generate bacteria in a lab for diagnosis.

However this type of test can go on for up to two months. There are other, faster tests available, but these do not identify every strain of the disease.

The HPA's new test looked for a DNA region in the bacterium which the scientists said exists in every type of TB.

Using the "polymerase chain reaction" technique, the scientists were able to amplify the amount of DNA in order to identify TB's genetic marker.

The HPA's Dr Cath Arnold, who headed the research team, said: "We're looking for a genetic marker which is present in all strains of TB we've seen so far."

"We're confident that it will pick up very small amounts and tests so far have show that it seems to be as sensitive as the gold standard of using culture, but there are various aspects which we need to develop further before we can offer it as an off-the-shelf product."

 

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