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New test quickly ID's active TB in smear-negative patients
Date:9/22/2009

Active tuberculosis can be rapidly identified in patients with negative sputum tests by a new method, according to European researchers. Active tuberculosis (TB) is the seventh-leading cause of death worldwide, and while the diagnosis of active TB can be rapidly established when the bacteria can be identified on sputum microscopy, in about half of all cases, the TB bacterium cannot be detected, making another diagnostic option critical in efforts to control the spread of TB.

The findings from the Tuberculosis Network European Trialsgroup (TBNET) are published in the October 1 issue of the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"In this study, we showed that a differentiation between active pulmonary tuberculosis and LTBI is possible by the ELISpot test," said principal investigator of this TBNETstudy, Christoph Lange, M.D., Ph.D., from the Research Centre Borstel, in Germany.

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately one-third of the world's population is infected with M. tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, but only 10 to 20 percent of those will go on to develop active TB. The rest have latent TB infection, recently redefined as 'lasting tuberculosis immune responses' or LBTI, and are at risk for developing active TB at any time.

The researchers found that immune cells specific to the TB bacilli are concentrated in the airways of patients with active tuberculosis. These cells could be readily identified with an enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISpot) and the results of the test are available in one day. The ELISpot test is then able to distinguish between LTBI and active TB by comparing the frequencies of TB-specific T-lymphocytes in the blood versus in the lung. The identification of tuberculosis bacilli by culture, considered the gold standard takes several weeks.

"Because bronchoalveolar lavage is routinely performed in this situ
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Contact: Keely Savoie
ksavoie@thoracic.org
212-315-8620
American Thoracic Society
Source:Eurekalert

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