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Rapid TB Test Endorsed by WHO

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January 31, 2011
In follow up to our news item from October 8, 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed on December 8, 2010 a new rapid and automated molecular test that can detect tuberculosis (TB) in less than two hours. The test can accurately diagnose TB and determine if it is resistant to rifampin, the most common drug treatment for TB. The endorsement came after 18 months of field testing in countries with high rates of TB, including drug-resistant cases and TB associated with HIV infection.

WHO believes the test could revolutionize TB care because the test provides results while the patient waits and therefore has the potential for directing appropriate, immediate treatment and preventing spread of the disease. Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO's Stop TB Department, said in the December 8th news release: "This new test represents a major milestone for global TB diagnosis and care." TB remains a worldwide problem but especially so in countries in southeast Asia and Africa.

Benefits of the new rapid test are that it is fully automated, safe to perform, and easy to use. Cost, however, remains a key concern as both the test and the equipment to run the test are expensive for resource-poor countries. According to the WHO news release, co-developer FIND (the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics) has negotiated with the manufacturer Cepheid a significant reduction in the price of the test system for over one hundred low- and middle-income countries where TB is endemic.

WHO plans to release guidance and recommendations to help countries incorporate this test in their TB programs.

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

World Health Organization. WHO endorses new rapid tuberculosis test. A major milestone for global TB diagnosis and care. News release 8 December 2010. Available online at through Accessed January 2011.

Medical News Today. WHO Endorses Rapid TB Test. Available online at through Accessed January 2011.

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