The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday endorsed a new test for tuberculosis (TB) that can provide an accurate diagnosis in 100 minutes.
Most countries, including India, still depend on sputum smear microscopy, a diagnostic method that was developed a century ago. The new test uses DNA technology that can be used outside of regular laboratories.
The new fully automated NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) test helps in the early diagnosis of TB, as well as multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB complicated by HIV infection, which are more difficult to diagnose.
“We have the scientific evidence, we have defined the policy, and now we aim to support implementation for impact in countries,” said Dr Mario Raviglione, of the WHO. This is expected to result in a three-fold increase in the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB and a doubling in the number of HIV-associated TB cases.
Affordability has been a concern in the assessment process. Co-developer FIND (the Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics) is to announce it has negotiated with the manufacturer, Cepheid, a 75% reduction in the price for nations most affected by TB, including India.