Old technique used to make new advances with treatment of undetected TB

Scientists have used an old medical method to make work safer for advances with the treatment of undetected tuberculosis (TB).

New research outlines methods to diagnose and treat TB, which affects a third of the world’s population.

Only 5% of of those with the infection progress to the active form, while the rest remain undetected, which can prove fatal.

Now, scientists at the University of St Andrews – in collaboration with colleagues in Mozambique and Germany – have used an old medical technique of using heat to kill TB as part of efforts to improve treatment.

It make the bacteria specimens safe for testing by healthcare workers, which allows for further work and to identify patients with undetected TB.

Dr Wilber Sabiiti, from the University of St Andrews School of Medicine, said: “Defeating TB requires effective and accessible diagnostic and treatment tools.

“Our research has shown that this is possible by deploying the old simple technique of heating to simplify access to the urgently needed test for effective diagnosis and monitoring of tuberculosis treatment.”

TB remains the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is classified as a category three infectious disease, implying that it poses high risk to human health.

Working with patient specimens to diagnose TB becomes very difficult and requires a sophisticated laboratory facility and strict standards to ensure the safety of health professionals.

Boiling TB-positive samples for 20 minutes in a hot water bath kills all the bacteria preserving the Ribonucleic acid (RNA).

This means that tests which detect TB RNA can be performed near point-of-care without requiring expensive high-tech laboratories.

The new test method delivers results to the clinic within 24 hours whereas current methods take weeks or months to deliver results.

It has recently been listed by the WHO as a candidate to replace the current model for monitoring TB treatment.