New TB diagnostic proves effective, expedient, study finds

September 01, 2010

WHAT: A molecular test designed to easily diagnose tuberculosis (TB) and detect a drug-resistant form of the bacterium that causes TB can provide much more specific, sensitive and rapid results than currently available TB diagnostics, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a test involving 1,730 patients with suspected drug-sensitive or multidrug-resistant pulmonary TB, the Xpert MTB/RIF TB test successfully identified 98 percent of all confirmed TB cases and 98 percent of patients with rifampin-resistant bacteria in less than two hours.

TB remains one of the major causes of disability and death worldwide, with an estimated 1.8 million deaths in 2008 and an increasing incidence of drug-resistant disease. New, less costly tools to rapidly diagnose TB and its drug-resistant forms are urgently needed to help stem the tide of new infections.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has supported the development of this diagnostics technology since 2002. This support was critical to the public-private partnership that led to the Xpert MTB/RIF TB test. The current clinical trial findings are from a study conducted by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a Swiss-based nonprofit organization. NIAID currently supports a partnership project to expand the diagnostic system to detect other resistance markers for extensively drug-resistant TB.
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ARTICLE: CC Boehme et al. Rapid molecular detection of tuberculosis and rifampin resistance. New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0907847 (2010).

WHO: Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director, and Christine Sizemore, Ph.D., chief of the Tuberculosis and Other Mycobacterial Diseases Section in NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, are available to comment on the development of the new test and its potential role in combating the global TB pandemic.

CONTACT: To schedule interviews, please contact the NIAID Office of Communications, 301-402-1663, niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research--at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide--to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)--The Nation's Medical Research Agency--includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

More information about NIAID research on TB is available at the NIAID TB Web portal (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/tuberculosis/Pages/Default.aspx).

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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