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A New TB Skin Test May Provide a Less Expensive and Simpler Method to Identify the Illness

Mar 29, 2024 | Health | 0 comments

Early tuberculosis detection could help eradicate the world’s deadliest infectious illness. This fatal disease kills 1.5 million people annually, according to the WHO.

People with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the lung-attacking bacteria, typically don’t realise they have it until their symptoms worsen. 2/5 TB cases are undetected or hidden.

This risks unknowingly infecting others.

Most TB is found in low-income areas, where current diagnostic procedures are sluggish, expensive, and challenging to deliver.

Sputum smears have been the oldest TB test for 100 years. They are old, clunky, and take three days to process.

GeneXpert, the gold standard for TB detection, can detect the disease in an hour but is pricey and unavailable in remote locations.

Screening and diagnosis improvements could eliminate this treatable disease.

Skin TB detection may improve diagnosis.

Sickness diagnosis

Diseases have chemical markers.

Dogs, which have 1,000 to 10,000 times the sense of smell of humans, may identify some cancer indications.

Our team at the University of Pretoria investigated if a silicone rubber sampler might identify TB chemicals.

We created a plaster-like patch that could detect TB bacteria compounds.

We identified TB-positive and TB-negative people.

Our research suggests an affordable, portable, and easy-to-administer test.

It started with the mosquito.

Our 2021 study examined why mosquitoes bite certain people but not others.

We examined whether those who thought they were mosquito-attractive had chemical differences on their skin.

We tested 20 people’s skin using a silicone rubber sampler. These carefully designed bracelets and anklets were samplers.

We identified chemical differences between mosquito-attracting and non-attracting participants.

Looking at TB tests

From the mosquito test, we developed TB detection research. Could a plaster on a patient’s skin diagnose the deadly respiratory disease?

At the Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Tshwane District Hospital in Pretoria, 15 TB-positive people had plaster-like skin patches with little silicone rubber bands on their wrists. Rubber bands were also connected to 23 University of Pretoria TB-negative patients.

Silicone rubber bands trapped semi-volatile and volatile organic chemicals released by the body during sampling.

Comfortable and non-restrictive bands were worn for 30–60 minutes. During the sampling period, individuals could go about their business.

The bands were readily removed and delivered to the lab.

We separated the silicone rubber’s several chemical components and found 27 TB-associated chemicals in the lab.

The promise of simple, cheap results

As we develop and broaden our findings, the human skin test for TB may become a non-invasive screening tool for this infectious disease.

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