Ultra-quick, low cost TB screening system to be launched in India

February 16th, 2009 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 16 (IANS) An innovative TB breathalyser, the outcome of an intensive six-year programme, will be ultra-quick and most reliable yet cost effective mode of detecting early stage tuberculosis.

The breathalyser will be launched first in India and South Africa, which are ranked first and fifth respectively on the WHO list of high burden TB countries. Its performance has been validated in extensive clinical trials within India and in Ethiopia, supervised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Set to revolutionise tuberculosis (TB) screening, the Cambridge University developed Rapid Biosensor Systems (RBS) breathalyser, based on patented bio-optical sensor technologies, is a lightweight portable system.

Dennis Camilleri, CEO-RBS, informed that the many advantages of the device over current screening methods will arouse significant interest among stakeholder groups in TB care.

“The most prevalent method of screening currently is the Mantoux TB test, which involves a health worker injecting test fluid under the patient’s skin, then waiting for up to 72 hours to see if there is a localised reaction that indicates the presence of TB.

“By contrast, the RBS breathalyser delivers an unequivocal positive or negative result within minutes, with no interpretation required. Significantly, it is highly specific to detecting active TB and is not compromised by the presence of HIV or other co-infections,” said Camilleri.

“TB is one of the greatest threats to global health and the terrifying ease with which it is transmitted means that national boundaries and global demographics are irrelevant in preventing its spread,” he said, according to a Cambridge release.

“The unit is extremely portable and easy to use and requires no running water or electricity for operation, it can therefore be deployed in remote locations, without the need for subjects to attend a screening clinic,” Camilleri said.

The WHO estimates 8.8 million active cases of TB are diagnosed worldwide every year out of which almost two million die. Once thought to be under control or even close to extinction, TB infection levels are rising and the threat is compounded by new, virulent and drug-resistant strains.

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