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Tuberculosis spreads through inhaling tiny droplets from coughs or sneezes of infected people.

A Simple Blood Test Could Detect TB in Asymptomatic Patients

Tuberculosis is the world's deadliest infectious disease and kills more than 1 million people each year, per the WHO

University of Southampton
Published:Mar 22, 2024
|1 min read
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Scientists have taken a major step towards developing a blood test that could identify millions of people who spread tuberculosis (TB) unknowingly. A new study has discovered a group of biological markers found at high levels among infectious patients.

The researchers hope the findings will pave the way for a simple test that can diagnose and stop the spread of the estimated 10 million TB cases annually.

TB spreads through inhaling tiny droplets from coughs or sneezes of infected people—and, while it mostly affects the lungs, TB can target any part of the body. Scientists from the University of Southampton, working with experts worldwide, carried out a detailed analysis of blood markers for the bacterial infection.

Simple test to identify specific protein markers

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, used a novel technique that identified a set of six proteins highly specific to TB. Lead author Dr Hannah Schiff, an NIHR clinical lecturer in respiratory medicine at Southampton, said as many as 3 million cases were missed last year, mostly in developing countries. “In our study, we combined a new measurement technique with deep mathematical analysis to identify these six new markers of TB. 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 dealing with other respiratory illnesses,” she said.

“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,” Schiff added.

- This press release was originally published on the University of Southampton website