New urine test for TB could save thousands of lives

By Kim Abrahams
24 March 2017

The TB-LAM urine test has been described as ‘simple’ and ‘inexpensive’.

On this day 135 years ago, Dr Robert Koch stunned the world when he announced he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis.

His discovery has since saved millions, if not billions, of lives, as it paved the way for scientists and medical experts to develop cures for the deadly illness. Today, (24 March) is known as World TB Day and commemorates the doctor’s momentous discovery.

Researchers at the University of Cape Town have now caused for more celebration as they have created a pee test for TB.

The test works similarly to a pregnancy test: the individual urinates on the stick, which then provides a reading that confirms whether the individual has TB or not. This is determined by the test’s ability to identify components of the cell wall of the TB bacterium should there be any in the urine.

Findings on the test have been published in this month’s BMC Medicine Journal.  

Graeme Meintjies, a researcher on the study, believes the test can cut mortality significantly, as it would speed up the diagnosis of TB among HIV-infected patients.

“The findings of these studies challenge the dogma that the first place to look for TB is in the sputum‚” he told SowetanLive.

TB is currently the number one killer of all infectious diseases in South Africa and the world, having overtaken HIV in 2014. This is an issue national government is currently addressing, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.  

According to Motsoaledi, a national strategy for HIV-AIDS, TB and sexually transmitted diseases will be made public.

“Because the world had thought that we had defeated TB‚ there has been no new research for the past 50 years. It’s only now that we are waking up‚” he further said.


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