CAPE TOWN, Researchers at the University of Cape Town have developed a landmark rapid test which diagnoses various forms of Tuberculosis (TB) within hours.

Experts say that since TB is the most common cause of death in South Africa, early diagnosis and treatment are key to managing the disease.

Known as IRISA-TB, the test diagnoses TB Meningitis and extra-pulmonary TB. The experts say about 500,000 new cases of TB are reported in South Africa every year and a quarter of these are not in the lungs, which makes detection difficult.

They say current tests are not sensitive enough to accurately diagnose extra-pulmonary TB.

This is an antibody-based test, which means that it detects a protein ….. and this protein is in abundance in patients who have a non-pulmonary form of TB ….. so extra pulmonary, any TB that’s outside the lung,” says Dr. Philippa Randall, the Project Lead Scientist of the team who developed the new test.

“So if we get a patient sample and any way the patient sample is taken it goes on current diagnostic, it will now go onto our diagnostic, and if that protein is there, it’s a colour changes � and if the protein is not there, there’s no colour change.

“So, this is a protein that can determine whether someone has extra pulmonary TB or they don’t.

The diagnostic test is currently undergoing a process of validation before it can enter the global commercial market.

This would actually enable the health care system and the patients to be diagnosed much more quickly, and far more accurately. So, you would move away from the empirical treatments that are taking place, because EPTB (extra-pulmonary TB) is notoriously difficult to diagnose. What we have failed to understand is the economic losses that are occurring, and the impact this has on the GDP because of TB is extraordinary, says Chief Executive Officer of Antrum Biotech Pty Limited, Khilona Radia.

The University of Cape Town says it is also engaging in the clinical evaluation of the test. Studies are taking place in a number of countries to gauge the test’s efficacy.

It’s all good and well developing a test, but the real question is, can the test save lives? And what impact does it have on patients? Is it an accurate test? So, we are recruiting patients from different parts of the country with extra pulmonary TB � where we can evaluate the performance outcome of this test, says University of Cape Town Professor Keertan Dheda.

Scientists say preliminary results show a significant improvement compared with existing TB detection tests.

Source: NAM News Network

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