Researchers at Stellenbosch University are collaborating with a multinational team of scientists to develop a rapid point-of-care diagnosis test for TB.

The new hand-held, battery-operated device can determine whether the patient has TB in less than an hour from measuring chemicals from a small blood sample obtained through a fingerpick.

The developers say the test will be able to provide near-immediate results that will be able to diagnose a person with TB and allow them to start treatment during a single visit to a healthcare facility.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of TB in the world, which is also the leading cause of death in South Africa with over 60,000 deaths notified in 2010.

While recent advances in TB diagnostics have improved diagnostic times, such as with the roll out of GeneXpert testing, high costs are still a factor which, have made such new technology inaccessible to many.

“People in remote areas with high TB incidence still do not benefit from the newer developments and face long diagnostic delays and often multiple return visits to clinics before they are diagnosed,” said Co-inventor and Scientist at Stellenbosch University, Prof Gerhard Walzl.

“This low cost screening test has the potential to significantly speed up TB diagnosis in resource limited settings,” continued Prof Walzl.

The new TB test is currently in its developmental phase and will be further tested for accuracy and efficacy in five African countries over the next three years by the ScreenTB consortium, a team of TB experts from eight African and European partnering institutions.

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