WHO announced today that it has endorsed a new rapid test for tuberculosis which can be used outside of the laboratory and takes 3 hours, instead of the 3 months for a culture. This is a fantastic breakthrough! Here is a quote from the WHO press release:
WHO endorses new rapid tuberculosis test
A major milestone for global TB diagnosis and care
8 DECEMBER 2010 | LONDON | GENEVA — Today, WHO endorsed a new and novel rapid test for tuberculosis (TB), especially relevant in countries most affected by the disease. The test could revolutionize TB care and control by providing an accurate diagnosis for many patients in about 100 minutes, compared to current tests that can take up to three months to have results.
A major milestone
“This new test represents a major milestone for global TB diagnosis and care. It also represents new hope for the millions of people who are at the highest risk of TB and drug-resistant disease.” said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO’s Stop TB Department. “We have the scientific evidence, we have defined the policy, and now we aim to support implementation for impact in countries.”
WHO’s endorsement of the rapid test, which is a fully automated NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) follows 18 months of rigorous assessment of its field effectiveness in the early diagnosis of TB, as well as multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB complicated by HIV infection, which are more difficult to diagnose.
The rest of the PR is at this website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2010/tb_test_20101208/en/index.html
The full PR mentions that this will increase the detection of TB – perhaps tripling the number of cases. What I wonder is how the health services will cope with a doubling of cases? The cost will be heavily discounted, to about $16 per test (according to the BBC this morning). Even that price will be hard to afford – although getting proper diagnosis will be cost-effective. “Cost-effective” doesn’t always translate to “affordable”, unfortunately…. To be continued…..