This imaging technique detects TB in an hour

Researchers at Stanford (Calif.) Medicine used glowing bacteria to develop an imaging technique that can diagnose live tuberculosis in an hour. A paper describing the research was published in Science Translational Medicine.

Faster TB diagnostics are critical since current methods can take up to two months to finish, and quicker diagnosis could curb the infection rate, said senior author Jianghong Rao, PhD.

The imaging technique uses fluorescence microscopes almost all hospitals already have, Dr. Rao said, and requires no special training. Hospital staff only need a sample of the patient's sputum, or mixture of saliva and mucus, that can be placed under the microscope to analyze.

"For cases of drug-susceptible TB, the treatment success rates are at least 85 percent, but the rate of success is only 54 percent for multidrug-resistant TB, which requires longer treatments and more expensive, more toxic drugs," Dr. Rao said.

The fluorescent probe can help identify the appropriate drug by revealing which bacteria are still alive in the patient sample. Bacteria that are alive glow green, while those that aren't, or are a different species, are dark.

"The hope is to make this an adaptable technology," Dr. Rao said. "It's something that could be really widespread, and you wouldn't necessarily need to use it in a hospital setting."

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