A recent article on Texas A&M‘s Vital Record indicates that a new, rapid test for tuberculosis could be ready for mainstream use within 18 months. The news comes out of the lab of Dr. Jeffery Cirillo and his team of researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who have been working on a new TB test that would effectively reduce the diagnosis timeline for for the disease, which remains one of the world’s deadliest. The goal has been to whittle down the wait for test results from several weeks down to just a few hours.
It appears that they have been successful.
The difference with Dr. Cirillo’s breakthrough TB test, according to the TAMU article by Jeremiah McNichols, ”involves using the new substrate to targeting a specific enzyme the bacteria produces as an indicator of the bacteria’s presence. It has not been previously possible to target a specific TB enzyme as a diagnostic for this disease.”
Cirillo explained the lynchpin of the test: “’We’ve identified a fluorescence substrate that reacts with the bacteria. This gives us a very sensitive signal that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.’ Once sputum samples are combined with the reactive substance, a battery-powered, handheld reader is then used to detect any fluorescence and deliver the diagnosis.”
The application for this testing approach is likely to spread well beyond that of diagnosing tuberculosis as well.“We would like to apply it in all respiratory diseases,” Cirillo said. “The first applications in the next few years will be TB.”