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New tool to “speed up detection” of TB recommended by WHO

13 May 2016

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending a rapid diagnostic tool and shorter, cheaper treatment regime for tuberculosis (TB) to help improve patient outcomes.

The new tool and treatment are aimed to speed up detection and improve outcomes for multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

The director of WHO’s global TB programme Dr Mario Raviglione, said: “This is a critical step forward in tackling the MDR-TB public health crisis.

“The new WHO recommendations offer hope to hundreds of thousands of MDR-TB patients who can now benefit from a test that quickly identifies eligibility for the shorter regimen, and then complete treatment in half the time and at half the cost.”

WHO has provided a factsheet for healthcare professionals.

It said the new treatment can be completed in just nine months to a year, and costs £694 – half the time of the conventional treatment.

WHO estimated that 5% or 480,000 cases of TB cases are multidrug resistant, leading to 190,000 deaths annually.

Raviglione said: “Not only is it less expensive than current regimens, but it is also expected to improve outcomes and potentially decrease deaths due to better adherence to treatment and reduced loss to follow-up.”

The conventional treatment can yield low cure rates because patients can find it hard to keep taking second-line drugs, which can be quite toxic.

The shorter regime is recommended for people with uncomplicated MDR-TB and for patients who have not been treated for second line drugs.

The new diagnostic test called MTBDRsI is a DNA-based test that identifies genetic mutations in MDR-TB strains, which are resistant to fluoroquinolones and injectable second-line TB drugs.

Results are available in 24-48 hours, rather than the three months needed previously.

The faster-turnaround of test results means patients can be put on appropriate second-line treatments, said WHO.