WHO approves new rapid TB test

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) has endorsed a new rapid test for tuberculosis that could save millions of lives through early diagnosis of the disease. TB killed an estimated 1.7 million people globally in 2009.

"This test will be very important for our country and other developing countries fighting TB epidemics; its speed and improved sensitivity will help us pick up far more cases and begin treatment earlier," said Joseph Sitienei, head of Kenya's National TB and Leprosy Control Programme.

Described as "revolutionary" by WHO, the accurate, easy-to-use test can diagnose TB in about 100 minutes, compared with current tests that can take up to three months. Developed by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a non-profit organisation based in Switzerland, the test is also able to detect drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis and TB complicated by HIV infection.

According to WHO, wide use of the test could result in a three-fold increase in the diagnosis of patients with drug-resistant TB and a 100% rise in the number of HIV-associated TB cases diagnosed in high-burden HIV and TB areas.

FIND has negotiated a 75% reduction in the price of the test cartridges for countries most affected by TB compared with the current market price; each test cartridge will cost less than US$17. - (PlusNews, December 2010)

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