In what could become a promising diagnostic tool for tuberculosis (TB) patients, city scientists have developed a new blood test that not only diagnoses the disease within two hours but also monitors the progress of a patient.
Researchers said patients are not required to provide their sputum sample, which at present, is a must for TB diagnosis. Moreover, the diagnosis of extra-pulmonary TB, which accounts for nearly 15- 20% of all TB cases, will become relatively easier, they added.
The test estimates specific blood markers called micro ribonucleic acids to arrive at the diagnosis.
“The ‘sputum’ method of diagnosis takes nearly six weeks; however, the blood test can give the results in just two hours,” said Dr Deepak Modi, scientist, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, who co-developed the test along with doctors at MGM Institute of Health Sciences.
“If the levels of these markers are high, it indicates that the person has a TB infection. Now, if the levels continue to remain high after treatment, it means the anti-TB drugs are not working and the patient needs to be tested for drug resistance,” he added.
“The test will also be very useful in diagnosing TB among children, from whom getting a sputum sample is a big challenge,” said Dr Chander Puri, head of biotechnology department, MGM institute of Health Sciences.
The researchers said they will now study the test on a larger population.
Dr Vikas Oswal, a city-based TB specialist, said that a blood test to diagnose TB may benefit as the conventional methods take more than a month.
“It is a new method. I would want to see how the accurate the results before using it for diagnosis,” he said.