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article imageMedical breakthrough in tuberculosis diagnosis

By Tim Sandle     Mar 26, 2017 in Science
Birmingham - Scientists have made a significant advance in the rapid detection of tuberculosis. This is based on genome sequencing and allows different strains of the infectious organism to be isolated.
The significance of a test that can differentiate between strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the primary bacterium that causes the disease tuberculosis) means that the right drugs can be administered and the infection addressed more quickly. The strain identification is based on analysis of bacterial DNA, from patient sputum samples (the saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory system). The technology used was an Illumina MiSeq sequencer.
Tuberculosis is a widespread infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria. The symptoms of infection include a chronic cough accompanied by blood-tinged sputum; other symptoms are fever, night sweats, and weight loss. As Pharmaceutical Microbiology points out, tuberculosis is only transmitted by people, and the organism cannot survive in the environment. It thrives, however, in the crowded conditions of prisons, refugee camps and slums.
With the new test, consultant microbiologist Dr Grace Smith, who was involved with the research conducted at Oxford and Birmingham universities, told the BBC: "We're able to provide information on the species of the organism and the drugs to which it may be resistant if it's tuberculosis."
While the study has sufficiently robust sensitivity to differentiate between strains it has also picked up a worrying pattern in relation to drug resistance. The study found one in five global cases of the disease is now resistant to at least one major treatment drug.
The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, under the heading "Same-day diagnostic and surveillance data for tuberculosis via whole genome sequencing of direct respiratory samples."
More about Tuberculosis, mycobacteria, Bacteria, Infection
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