A simple and inexpensive blood test can help control a disease that kills 1.5 million people every year.
Researchers from Stanford University have introduced a new blood test that is not only easier and cheaper but can accurately diagnose active tuberculosis. This simple blood test can potentially help reduce tuberculosis related deaths worldwide especially in developing countries.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9.6 million people suffered from tuberculosis in 2014 and 1.5 million died of the disease that same year. One of the biggest problems is that most of the people do not know they have the disease. By the time they know, the disease becomes untreatable.
“One-third of the world’s population is currently infected with TB. Even if only 10 percent of them get active TB, that’s still 3 percent of the world’s population – 240 million people.” Parvesh Khatri, lead researcher said in a statement.
Conventional blood tests such as skin prick test and interferon assay cannot differentiate dormant or inactive tuberculoses from active TB. They cannot even identify whether a person is sick anymore or not. These tests are also relatively difficult and looked at disease-causing bacterium in sputum sample coughed up the patients.
“If someone can’t produce adequate sputum, or if you have a kid who can’t follow directions, it’s hard to diagnose them.” Co-researcher Tim Sweeney said.
The new revolutionary blood test does not require sputum samples. It identifies a gene expression ‘signature’ to separate patients with active TB from those who have inactive TB or have been vaccinated against the disease. The test will also help physicians monitor the effectiveness of treatment and how well they are responding to a treatment whereas current tests cannot evaluate whether patient is starting to get better.
The diagnostic power of the newly developed method has been confirmed by testing 1,400 human samples. With this inexpensive test, researchers are aiming to precisely diagnose and counteract tuberculosis and they believe this simple blood test can help control the disease that is one of the major causes of death worldwide.
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The study was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.