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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
TB patient medicine test unveiled
Image of TB
Patients stop taking medicine when the symptoms of go
A test has been developed to determine whether people with tuberculosis are taking their medicines.

TB affects 7,500 people in the UK each year and can normally be treated with a six-month course of antibiotics.

But some patients stop taking the medicine once the symptoms disappear, increasing the chances of a drug-resistant strain developing.

Isoscreen, developed by a team at the University of Birmingham, involves testing a patient's urine.

Dr Graham Cope, who helped to develop Isoscreen, said: "It is of paramount importance to world health that we do as much as possible to stop strains of TB becoming drug-resistant and patient compliance when taking drugs is essential to find this disease.

"The test has been designed so that it can be used in clinics around the country and abroad to help to stem the increase in the disease."

Cost

The scientists found that in a trial of nearly 200 people with TB, 1.6% were not taking their drugs as directed while a further 5.2% were not taking the tablets daily.

Patients need to complete the course of antibiotics before the bacteria is fully eradicated from their bodies.

The symptoms, which include night sweats, poor appetite, weight loss, tiredness and shortness of breath, often disappear soon after starting a course of treatment.

Treating TB with antibiotics costs about 6,000 while treatment for drug-resistant TB can cost up to 60,000.

With the new test, urine samples turn dark blue if the patient is complying with treatment.

They turn green if they have not taken the drugs for two to three days or stay the same colour if the patient has not been taking their medication over a longer period.

Patients would be tested at their monthly check-ups during the course of the treatment.

Dangers

If the test showed that they have not been taking the antibiotics, doctors could then explain the dangers of not completing the course.

Professor Peter Ormerod, the British Thoracic Society's spokesman on TB, said: "It is sometimes difficult to convince people to keep taking the antibiotics when they feel better but if they don't TB can come back and sometimes a drug-resistant strain can develop.

"This test will give us something extra in ensuring patients complete their TB course and as such will be important."

About 8 million people across the world contract TB each year, with about 2.5 million people dying from it.

The World Health Organisation has highlighted the disease as a major priority because drug-resistant strains are becoming more common and difficult to treat.




SEE ALSO:
TB test to slash infection rates
12 Aug 04  |  Health


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