Effective blood test for childhood tuberculosis in the works

May 21, 2021
Effective blood test for childhood tuberculosis in the works

Scientists at New Orleans’ Tulane University, US, have devised a blood test that checks for tuberculosis (TB) in young children – the test is claimed to detect the presence of mycobacterium tuberculosis microbesup to a year before the disease itself occurs.

It can be difficult to detect tuberculosis in young children: they may not exhibit typical symptoms initially, or may have trouble producing the sputum samples needed to check for TB-causing bacteria in their respiratory system; and because the amount of bacteria in a child’s sample is often much smaller than the amount in a sample provided by an adult, standard testing may prove to be inaccurate.

The new blood test checks for a protein known as CFP-10 secreted by TB-causing bacteria, and may be present in the bloodstream up to 60 weeks before the child actually develops the disease. Only a small blood sample is needed, as an antibody is added to enrich any CFP-10 that may be present, causing it to better show up when analysed by a mass spectrometer

The blood test was found to deliver 100% accurate results when testing stored blood samples that had previously been obtained from a total of 519 children – it identified the individuals who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis via “gold-standard” testing techniques. Additionally, it also identified 83.7% of the children who those traditional tests missed, but who were later diagnosed with tuberculosis by their physicians.

“This is a breakthrough for infants with tuberculosis because we don’t have this kind of screening technology to catch early infections among those youngest groups who are most likely to be undiagnosed,” said Dr. Tony Hu, Presidential Chair in Biotechnology Innovation at Tulane University. “I hope this method can be pushed forward quickly to reach these children as early as possible.”

The scientists are now developing an inexpensive portable device that could perform the blood tests onsite, in settings such as impoverished communities where lab testing may not be available.

Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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