New TB blood test more accurate than skin test

By Michael Kahn

LONDON (Reuters) - A new blood test will allow doctors more accurately to pinpoint patients likely to develop the symptoms of tuberculosis, researchers said on Monday.

Traditional testing for the disease involves injecting the subject with components of the TB bacterium; a resultant swelling of the skin can signal dormant tuberculosis.

Such skin tests are prone to false positives — people wrongly identified as needing treatment — and, conversely, can sometimes wrongly show TB carriers to be free of the infection.

A new blood test known as ELISpot is 1.5 times better at spotting tuberculosis carriers, said Ajit Lalvani, a researcher at Imperial College London.

“On a global level, when you stack up those numbers, that is going to make a huge difference,” Lalvani, whose findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said in a telephone interview.

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease which typically attacks the lungs and affects about 9.2 million more people each year, killing an estimated 1.7 million. Many of its victims are in developing countries whose cash-strapped heath systems have limited means of screening for the disease.

The emergence and spread of drug-resistant germs makes treating tuberculosis more difficult and could make the disease even deadlier in the future.

Lalvani and his team studied 908 healthy children in Turkey exposed to tuberculosis in their homes. A little over half tested positive for latent TB using the two tests.  Continued…


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