Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi unveiled in Durban today a new technologically advanced tuberculosis diagnostic machine called the GeneXpert.
“By unveiling this exciting new TB diagnostic machine today, we will be able to diagnose TB within 120 minutes and start patients on treatment immediately,” Motsoaledi said at the Prince Mshiyeni hospital in Umlazi.
He said it used to take three to five months for the results but this would be much quicker.
The machine was not only fast, but was also “significantly” more accurate compared to the microscopes they were using before.
“A single GeneXpert test can detect 98% of smear positive TB whilst microscopes detect 60% of smear positive TB.”
The machine comes in three sizes. The first and the biggest was the GX 38 (Infinity), which can do 48 tests at a time and 197 tests over an eight hour shift.
The minister said this type of machine was the first of its kind in Africa and one of the only five outside the US.
The GX16 can conduct 16 tests simultaneously and 64 tests over an eight hour shift. The GX4 conducts four tests simultaneously and 16 tests over eight hours.
The machines would be rolled out in all health facilities across the country.
They cost the department R53 million and 54 lab technicians had been trained to operate them.
Motsoaledi said it was very easy to use the machines.
He was also expected to launch a new smart phone technology pilot project to be used in KwaZulu-Natal in the fight against TB, to coincide with World TB day.
Ethekweni municipality has 45 000 people with TB, the highest number for any municipality in the country.