Researchers seek better TB diagnostic: 5 things to know

Bacteria that cause tuberculosis grow slowly. Because of this, it is not uncommon for patients to be diagnosed after being infected for some time, increasing the risk of exposure to others. 

College Station, Texas-based Texas A&M Health Science Center researchers have developed a test that detects specific enzymes only produced by TB bacteria, speeding up the detection process from days to minutes. 

Here are five things to know about this diagnostic procedure.

  • The most accurate way of diagnosing TB is through a cultured mucus sample from the patient. Declaring a definitive positive or negative result using this method can take weeks.
  • The Texas A&M team spent about six years analyzing the structure of the TB enzyme in order to determine the configuration of a compound that would bind to it, resulting in detection.
  • The compound they ultimately landed on becomes fluorescent when it binds with the TB enzyme. The sample will actually light up when the test is positive. 
  • It is possible that the same technology could be used to combat antibiotic-resistant TB. If the positive bacterial culture is exposed to a drug, and the light dissipates, that would signal the drug effectively killed the bacteria.
  • The researchers have developed a portable, battery-operated light reader that can analyze the sample for a positive or negative diagnosis.

More articles on infection control:

Top 10 infection control stories, June 8-12
Infection prevention and housekeeping: A collaboration of equals
Researchers find 1 enzyme that may prove useful for TB treatment

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