Researchers develop test to track tuberculosis gene

Researchers have developed a test to track the TB gene.

A blood test that can predict whether or not a dormant string of tuberculosis (TB) will develop into full-blown tuberculosis has been developed.

Researchers at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative teamed up to develop the test. The test will forecast whether the dormant mycobacterium tuberculosis could turn into active tuberculosis disease. The test has a 10 to 20 percent chance of false results.

“This discovery could help develop a diagnostic that would narrow the detection and treatment gap for tuberculosis, impacting how the global health community approaches this epidemic,” Dan Zak, an assistant professor at the Center for Infectious Disease Research, said.

Mycobacterium affects about 33 percent of the population, though only 90 percent will see this strand develop into TB. The test works by measuring specific RNAs in the blood; the blood markers are used to measure the activity of the gene in the blood.

The study, which was published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, took samples from over 6,000 teenagers. The teens were infected with the mycobacterium. The researchers followed them for two years to see who developed active TB.

“The test can predict progression to TB more than one year before disease manifests, which provides a window of opportunity to use treatment to prevent the disease,” Willem Hanekom, professor and principal investigator of the study, said.

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