What you need to know:
- The test uses a small blood sample to pick out a protein
- The test was developed by researchers at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, US
A new test that can detect tuberculosis a year before the disease occurs in children has been developed.
The test works by finding traces of the bacteria that causes TB in infants a year before the deadly disease strikes.
According to Dr Tony Hu, the head of biotechnology innovation at Tulane University who led the team of researchers, the test uses a small blood sample to pick out a protein that is secreted by mycobacterium TB. Mycobacterium TB is a species of the pathogenic bacteria that is the causative agent of the disease.
Dr Hu explained that the test has the capacity to screen for all forms of TB and swiftly evaluate a patient’s response to treatment. “There is currently no screening technology that can catch early infection in children, yet this is the group of patients that is most likely to be undiagnosed,” he said.
The test was developed by researchers at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, US.
Globally, it is estimated that up to one million children develop TB every year. Out of these, over 200,000 die from causes linked to TB. “Over 80 per cent of childhood TB deaths occurs in children under the age of five years. These deaths are mainly because the disease is undiagnosed,” said Dr Hu said.
This lack of diagnosis is attributed to lack of specific symptoms that can be narrowed down as a TB infection. “This is compounded by the ineffectiveness of childhood samples to provide a correct diagnosis. What we have observed is that samples from children tend to have much less bacteria than samples from adults,” he said.
In the new test, though, a small blood sample is taken from children of any age and used to spot the protein known as CFP-10 which is produced by the bacteria to form and sustain the TB infection.
The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.