A research team from Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California have done some research on a new inexpensive and simple blood test that may assist with improved TB diagnosis as well as the treatment of TB disease. The test identifies a gene expression ‘signature’ that can distinguish between patients with active TB and those with latent TB or other disease.

Limitations in current TB diagnostic methods can lead to incorrect diagnosis; skin prick testing and interferon assays cannot distinguish between patients with active TB and those who are no longer ill or have been vaccinated against the disease, while sputum analysis relies on the patient’s ability to cough up a sample on demand. HIV patients are also prone to misdiagnosis as older tests often fail to pick up active TB in this population.

According to the researchers the new blood test eliminates the need to collect sputum, won’t produce a positive result in the case of a latent infection or previous TB vaccination, and can detect TB in the presence of HIV. They have also indicated that it would be effective irrespective of the TB strain or presence of antibiotic resistance. The test can be used in both children and adults.

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