The World Health Organisation (WHO) has endorsed a new tuberculosis test that can provide a precise diagnosis in the span of 100 minutes. The new technology, as per WHO, would revolutionise the treatment. As nearly 1.98 million TB cases are reported every year in India, the new technology can be a boost for the fight against TB.
Indian health services are still dependent on the sputum smear microscopy that was developed years back. The new technology also claims to perform tests outside the regular laboratories. The test is being evaluated at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.
The test, also called “while you wait”, will provide accurate and quick diagnosis for patients, compared to the current tests that can take up to three months. The new fully automated NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) test helps in the early diagnosis of TB, as well as multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB complicated by HIV infection, which are more difficult to diagnose.
The WHO has recommended that countries hardest hit by TB include the test to control the disease. A senior official in the Central TB division of the Union Health Ministry said it would to be beneficial but the cost for a single sample test, around Rs 800, is a concern.
Although the test has an added advantage of being performed outside the regular laboratory, but has a limitation of being heavy on the pockets of patient.
India got equipment required for the test with support from WHO and co-developer FIND (Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics). WHO said, FIND has negotiated with the manufacturer, Cepheid, for a 75 per cent reduction in price for countries most affected. Preferential pricing will be granted to 116 low- and middle-income countries where TB is endemic.
Among 15 countries with the highest estimated TB incidence rates, 13 are in Africa, while a third of all new cases are in India and China.