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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 November 2005, 00:01 GMT
TB test 'could save many lives'
TB bacteria
TB is a major killer
A new diagnostic test for active tuberculosis infection could potentially save million of lives.

The test, developed by Imperial College London, has won a 10,000 award for medical innovation.

By growing samples in a special liquid, and analysing them with a sophisticated microscope, the TB bacteria can be identified in days, rather than weeks.

TB is the world's leading curable infectious killer, claiming 5,000 lives a day.

If left untreated, almost 70% of people with TB will die.

This innovation could have a profound impact on global healthcare delivery
Dr Andy Goldberg

A single person with infectious TB can infect between 10-15 people a year.

The number of cases in the UK has increased by 25% over the last 10 years.

Drug impact

Not only does the new test enable the TB bacteria to be identified more quickly, it allows doctors to add various drugs to the liquid media in which the sample is grown to determine which would be of benefit in tackling the infection.

This is particularly important given the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of the disease.

Dr David Moore, who developed the test, said: "Nearly two million people in the world are dying needlessly from TB, largely because of inadequate diagnostic resources.

"This is a tragedy because the disease is completely curable."

The test, currently being developed in Lima, Peru, has beaten 1,200 other entries to win the top prize at the Medical Futures Innovation Awards 2005.

The judges, chaired by Professor Sally Davies, director of research & development at the Department of Health, choose Dr Moore's test because of its simplicity and its huge potential to have a global impact.

Dr Andy Goldberg, founder of Medical Futures, said: "This innovation could have a profound impact on global healthcare delivery.

"It demonstrates the ingenuity of an innovator in taking a simple laboratory finding and applying it to meet a widespread clinical need.

"It's just what Alexander Fleming did in 1928 with Penicillin."

Paul Sommerfeld, of the charity TB Alert, told the BBC News website he was "very excited" by the test, but that more finance was needed to develop it further.

He said: "We desperately need new drug and diagnostic tools for TB.

"Despite the fact that the disease kills millions of people every year we are still using drugs that were developed about 40 years ago, and a diagnostic test that was developed in the 1880s."

  • A UK company, Oxford Immunotec, also won a Medical Futures Innovation for a new blood test for diagnosing TB infection called T-spot.

    08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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