Blood test for Tuberculosis; researchers at the final phase of development

A blood test that could identify millions of people who spread tuberculosis unknowingly.

In the process of creating a blood test that might identify millions of people who unintentionally spread TB, scientists have made significant progress. A breakthrough study has discovered a group of biological markers that are found at high levels among infectious patients.

The results, according to the researchers, could open the door for a straightforward test that can identify and halt the estimated 10 million instances that occur each year. Based on data from the World Health Organisation, tuberculosis, or TB, is the most deadly transmissible disease in the world, taking the lives of over a million people annually.

Collaborating with specialists globally, researchers from the University of Southampton conducted the most comprehensive examination of blood indicators for bacterial infection ever attempted.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, employed a cutting-edge method to identify a group of six proteins that had a very high degree of accuracy in TB diagnosis.

Up to three million cases were overlooked last year, primarily in underdeveloped nations, according to lead author Dr Hannah Schiff, a respiratory specialist at Southampton.

TB remains a global catastrophe because our efforts to control the spread are hindered by inadequate testing, which is slow and reliant on specialist equipment and labs.

A third of people who get infected go undiagnosed and remain infectious. In our study, we combined a new measurement technique with deep mathematical analysis to identify these six new markers of TB disease.

It could lead to a transformative alternative to diagnosing the condition – a simple test that detects proteins in the bloodstream whose levels differ between people with TB, healthy individuals, and those suffering from other respiratory illnesses.

Dr Hannah Schiff

Inhaling microscopic droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze can transmit tuberculosis (TB), which can destroy any part of the body even though it mostly affects the lungs.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the number of cases in the country climbed to almost 5,000 last year and is predicted to rise even more in 2024.

Experts from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru collaborated on the University of Southampton study.

Researchers in charge of the project examined proteins in the blood of patients in South America and Africa who had active tuberculosis. After comparing the biomarkers to those of lung infection patients and healthy individuals, they discovered 118 proteins that were noticeably different in both groups.

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The specialists then reduced these to the six proteins that, in their opinion, can be utilised to differentiate between those with lung issues or in excellent health and infectious TB patients. According to Dr Diana Garay-Baquero, a Southampton resident who co-directed the study, the results provide a path forward for creating a TB test that is as straightforward as the lateral flows utilised in Covid.

The new markers we discovered are truly exciting, but the important work now is to develop these into tests that can be used for the millions of people who are transmitting TB without knowing it.

As the Covid-19 pandemic confirmed, we ignore highly infectious airborne diseases at our peril.

Dr Diana Garay-Baquero

Also Read| Diary allergy can be overcome by gut bacteria

Source: University of Southampton News

Journal Reference: Schiff, H. F., Walker, N. F., Ugarte-Gil, C., Tebruegge, M., Manousopoulou, A., Garbis, S. D., Mansour, S., Wong, P. H., Rockett, G., Piazza, P., Niranjan, M., Vallejo, A. F., Woelk, C. H., Wilkinson, R. J., Tezera, L. B., Garay-Baquero, D., & Elkington, P. (2024). Integrated plasma proteomics identifies tuberculosis-specific diagnostic biomarkers. JCI insight, e173273. Advance online publication.

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