Smiley face
Weather     Live Markets

Scientists have made significant progress in developing a blood test for tuberculosis (TB) that could identify millions of people who unknowingly spread the disease. A breakthrough study has discovered a group of biological markers found in high levels among infectious TB patients, paving the way for a simple test that could diagnose and stop the spread of the estimated 10 million annual cases of the disease. TB is the deadliest infectious disease globally, killing over one million people each year, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Researchers from the University of Southampton, in collaboration with experts worldwide, conducted an in-depth analysis of blood markers for TB, using a novel technique to identify a set of six proteins highly accurate in pinpointing the disease. Lead author Dr. Hannah Schiff, a respiratory expert at Southampton, emphasized that TB remains a global catastrophe due to inadequate testing, which is slow and relies on specialized equipment and labs. The study revealed that a third of infected individuals go undiagnosed and remain contagious, highlighting the urgent need for improved diagnostic tools to control the spread of TB effectively.

TB spreads through inhaling droplets from coughs or sneezes of infected individuals, predominantly affecting the lungs but capable of causing devastation throughout the body. In the UK, TB cases increased to around 5,000 last year, with a projected continued rise in 2024, as reported by the UK Health Security Agency. The University of Southampton study, conducted in collaboration with experts from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru, identified six proteins in the blood of active TB patients in Africa and South America that can distinguish contagious TB patients from healthy individuals or those with lung conditions.

The study was published on World TB Day, held on 24 March to raise awareness and intensify efforts to combat the global TB pandemic. Funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, the investigation compared blood biomarkers in TB patients, healthy individuals, and patients with lung infections, detecting 118 proteins that differed significantly between the groups. The researchers were able to narrow down to the six proteins that hold promise for developing a TB test as simple and effective as the lateral flow tests used during the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring the timely detection and treatment of millions of individuals transmitting TB unknowingly.

Study co-director Dr. Diana Garay-Baquero from the University of Southampton emphasized the importance of advancing these newly discovered markers into tests that can be readily used by individuals harboring TB unknowingly, drawing parallels to the critical lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. As TB continues to pose a significant threat to global health, identification and control of contagious cases through innovative diagnostic tools are essential to prevent further transmission of the disease and reduce its devastating impact.

© 2024 Globe Echo. All Rights Reserved.