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Study Finds Genetic Marker In Some TB Patients, Could Lead To Improved Diagnostic Tests

Researchers have identified a “genetic signature” in the blood of patients with active tuberculosis that could one day lead to a test to predict who among latent carriers might develop the disease, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Reuters reports (Kelland, 8/18). It is estimated that about 10 percent of the 2 billion people who have latent TB will develop the active form of the disease, the U.K. Press Association notes. (8/18). Currently, a skin or blood test can pick up latent TB infections, but “it is impossible to predict who will get the full-blown disease,” the BBC writes. The researchers plan to monitor the study patients in the U.K. and South Africa with the genetic marker to determine whether they develop active TB. “If you could predict which so-called carriers of TB will progress to the full-blown disease, this would have major ramifications for stopping the global epidemic,” said lead researcher Anne O’Garra of the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research. “We just have to prove it now, but it’s very promising,” she added (Briggs, 8/18).