Breakthrough: New blood test spots this deadly disease

Breakthrough: New blood test spots this deadly disease

The discovery could be a tremendous boon to the medical community.

A groundbreaking discovery at Stanford University could lead to a better process for diagnosing a disease that has plagued humanity for eons: tuberculosis.

A simple blood test could greatly streamline the process by detecting a gene expression signature that would show active TB in the blood, according to a UPI report.

Currently, TB must be detected by taking sputum samples from patients, but scientists have been looking for a better diagnostic test to fight a disease that still affects 240 million people around the world.

The results of the test were hugely successful: it was found to be 86 percent effective in children, and it has the bonus of being able to spot TB infections in those with HIV. Most who have latent rather than active TB, or who have gotten a TB vaccine, don’t give false positives, another important finding of the study. It can also be used to monitor the recovery of a TB patient.

The advantages of this test is it can be used in remote locations away from advanced medical equipment. The problem with using sputum is that as they get better, it gets harder to collect coughed-up sputum, and therefore doctors can’t monitor TB patients as easily.

The findings were published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

“WHO has called for a test that would give a positive result at least 66 percent of the time when a child has active TB,” a statement from Stanford University reads. “The Khatri test is 86 percent sensitive in children. And if the test comes up negative, it’s right 99 percent of the time. That is, of 100 patients who test negative with the Khatri test, 99 do not have active TB.

“The requirements of the test are simple enough that it can potentially be done under relatively basic field conditions in rural and undeveloped areas of the world,” the statement continues. “Any hospital should be able to perform the test. Villages without electricity could likely use ordinary blood samples and a solar-powered PCR machine, which multiplies strands of DNA, to accurately test people for active TB.”

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