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Forsyth scientist receives major grant to support rapid, accurate, affordable test for tuberculosis

Dr. Antonio Campos-Neto, head of the department of Cytokine Biology at The Forsyth Institute, has received a major grant from the internationally renowned Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) to continue his work to develop a test to diagnose active Tuberculosis (TB), the world's second deadliest infectious disease. Dr. Campos-Neto aims to create a rapid, sensitive, non-invasive and accurate TB diagnostic test, modeled after a pregnancy test, which would identify the TB bacterium's molecules present in a patient's urine.

TB is a leading cause of death worldwide, with 1.7 million deaths and 9 million new active cases annually. TB cases are already at epidemic levels in Africa and are on the rise in developing countries throughout the world, particularly among HIV/AIDS patients. This resurgence combined with the ease of transmission through coughing, sneezing and other common activities, and the emergence of drug resistant TB strains is leading to a growing fear of a global spread of the disease.

Among the main barriers to preventing the spread of TB are the shortcomings of existing diagnostic tests, including: inaccurate diagnoses, limited test sensitivity, invasive sample collection, time-consuming testing and most importantly, failure to distinguish between active and latent cases.

"We are in the preliminary stages of establishing a methodology that allows us to detect minute traces of the TB antigens that are excreted in the urine by a TB-infected patient. What is so exciting about this project is that if we are successful it will contribute tremendously to the control of a disease that kills close to two million people every year," says Dr. Campos-Neto.

The research has already detected molecules produced by TB in the urine of infected mice and humans. Establishing a test that can be used in a clinical setting offers several potential benefits:

  • confirming the diagnosis of active TB, not latent or dormant infection
  • the test does not require expensive equipment and can be performed anywhere in the world, including the most remote locations
  • the test result is easy to read and obtained in less than five minutes, enabling the immediate initiation of treatment
  • urine is a far easier sample to collect and, unlike current sample collection, is completely non-invasive
  • the presence of TB antigens in urine may be detectable earlier than through other samples, leading to earlier treatment and increased survival rates

Philip Stashenko, President and CEO of The Forsyth Institute, says, "Dr. Campos-Neto's research offers a tremendous opportunity to address a critical worldwide public health problem, and extends the Institute's mission to study systemic disease. This would be an important breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of TB."

Recent studies show that an improved TB diagnostic test could save as many as 625,000 lives every year. Without a new, more efficient and more reliable diagnostic test, TB will continue to spread at alarming rates.


Contact: Matt Ellis
Forsyth Institute

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