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WHO Endorses Rapid TB Test

“The World Health Organization endorsed a new, rapid test for tuberculosis Wednesday that cuts the diagnosis time for patients from months to hours,” CNN reports (Gray, 12/8).

Current TB diagnostic tests, which are more than a century old, rely on microscopic examination of a sputum sample and results can take up to three months, the Guardian writes. While patients wait for results, “treatment is delayed and … [t]he long wait also increases the chances they will infect others,” according to the newspaper. The new test can deliver results in 100 minutes. Mario Raviglione, director of WHO’s Stop TB Department, said, “This new test represents a milestone for global TB diagnosis and care. It also represents new hope for the millions of people who are at the highest risk of TB and drug-resistant disease” (Boseley, 12/8).

WHO “said it endorsed the test after 18 months of rigorously assessing its effectiveness in the field in the early diagnosis of TB,” CNN reports. “Evidence so far indicates the test could result in a three-fold increase in the diagnosis of patients with drug-resistant TB and a doubling in the number of HIV-associated TB cases diagnosed in areas with high rates of both diseases,” the news service adds (12/8).

“The test, called Xpert MTB/RIF, was developed by Cepheid and the Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics (FIND), a non-profit group funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Union and national donors,” Reuters reports. “Cepheid said it would offer a 75 percent price discount for poorer nations on the tests and the table top computer system used to analyze them, meaning the tests will cost $16.86 and the machine will cost around $17,000,” according to the news service. John Bishop, Cepheid’s CEO, said the firm plans to initially give the discount to 116 countries where TB is common. As demand for the test increases, prices would be further discounted, Bishop said.

“There has been a strong commitment to remove any obstacles, including financial barriers, that could prevent the successful roll-out of this new technology,” said Giorgio Roscigno, FIND’s CEO. “For the first time in TB control, we are enabling access to state-of-the-art technology simultaneously in low-, middle- and high-income countries,” Roscigno added (Kelland, 12/8).

WHO said in a press release that it is also “releasing recommendations and guidance for countries to incorporate this test in their programs.” The guidelines include “testing protocols (or algorithms) to optimize the use and benefits of the new technology in those persons where it is needed most,” according to the release, which said the new test could “revolutionize TB care and control” (12/8).

A Reuters factbox highlights information about TB worldwide (12/8).

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