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New TB test announced that could save thousands more children

25 Oct 2018

A new simple method for testing stool samples using minimal equipment could identify thousands of children with tuberculosis (TB) and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) – drastically reducing the numbers of children under five dying from TB – announced today at the Union World Conference.

Currently, an estimated 239,000 children die from TB every year. Children with TB rarely die when they receive standard treatment for the disease, but 90 percent of children who die from TB worldwide went untreated.

The current diagnosis method tests sputum. However young children cannot spit up a sputum specimen on command so are referred to a specialist to undergo a more invasive and painful method in order to get a sample.

This ground breaking scientific study is an exciting development for diagnosing child TB that will provide a much less painful experience.

A new simple method developed by researchers at the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation involves mixing a sample of stool with a sample of the sample reagent buffer (which comes with every Xpert machine cartridge in bottles of eight ml). This simple Xpert stool test was positive (showing TB) in all children who also had positive respiratory samples – there were no false negative stool samples. The work was done in collaboration with Ethiopian and Indonesian research institutes, and the respective national TB control programmes.

Petra De Haas, Laboratory Consultant, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, demonstrated the ease of the test process using Xpert MTB/RIF testing equipment, which is already globally enrolled. Working in collaboration with Indonesia and Ethiopia the study will now begin to gain practical experience. Petra De Haas said “We hope by 2020 every child will have access to this test and more lives will be saved.”

To demonstrate the impact of MDR-TB, Aimgul Duishekeeva, Technical Officer, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, talked about patient stories. She shared an emotional story of a young mother with TB who had already lost her father, mother and brother to the disease. The young mother struggled with TB for 11 years, her husband lost hope for a cure and, to protect her two children from the infection, she had to leave them behind. Now, due to successful MDR-TB treatment with Bedaquiline she is now cured and the family is reunited with exciting plans for the future.

This simple stool-based diagnosis could enable hundreds of thousands more people at risk from TB and MDR-TB to be diagnosed and treated.

“No child should die from TB,” said José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union. “There is an urgent need to drastically step up investment in research and development that can deliver new and better diagnostic tools such as this stool test. Promising breakthroughs of this kind are needed if we are to make inroads into preventing illness and death from both drug-susceptible TB and MDR-TB.”

At the end of the session Dr Paula Fujiwara, Scientific Director at The Union and chair of the session announced the launch of The Union’s ‘Field Guide for the Management of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis’. The guide serves as a practical tool intended to help health workers in clinical and operational management of MDR-TB.

Download The Union’s Field Guide for the Management of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis here.


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