July 1, 2008

New Rapid Test for Drug-Resistant TB Will Be Unveiled in Four African Countries


By Frank Jordans

The Associated Press


A new test to quickly diagnose drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis will be rolled out in four African countries this year, the World Health Organization said Monday.

The DNA-based test will cut the time it takes to detect multi- drug resistant TB from up to four months to a matter of hours, the director of WHO's tuberculosis program said .

Dr. Mario Raviglione said testing is currently "one of the major bottlenecks" in combating the disease, which becomes harder to treat the longer patients have to wait for the appropriate medication.

"This test is feasible, is affordable, and is effective in high endemic countries," said Giorgio Roscigno of the Geneva-based Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, which helped develop the test.

Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres welcomed the new speedier diagnosis but said it remains to be seen how cost- effective the test will be.

More than 9 million people around the world fall sick with tuberculosis every year. Of those, about 500,000 get multidrug resistant TB, which is immune to two types of antibiotic treatment. Patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis have to switch to more potent and expensive medicines.

Detecting drug-resistant TB quickly improves the chances a patient will survive and lowers the risk that the disease mutates further into an even more drug-resistant form of the disease.

Originally published by BY FRANK JORDANS.

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