A new simple to use test for TB could reduce death rate by almost 20%

According to Statistics South Africa, TB is the most common cause of death in South Africa. Tuberculosis and HIV-related illnesses were the two leading causes of death among young people in 2013.

A research team led by Prof Keertan Dheda of the University of Cape Town has come up with a simple to use TB test using a low-cost urine sample at the bedside of HIV patients. It works for those who are both able and unable to produce sputum. This urine lipoarabinomannan or LAM test, enables a diagnosis in approximately 20 minutes.

The study showed that TB treatment can be started much more quickly than if diagnosed using current diagnostic tools. It also showed that the TB death rate in hospitals could be reduced by almost 20%, when the LAM test is used to guide treatment.

The special thing about this test is it really serves a very niche population, for it is not suitable for anyone with TB, it only works well in people with advanced HIV that have TB.

Prof Keertan Dheda, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of the Lung Infection and Immunity Unit at UCT

So it is in this particularly vulnerable group were death rates are very high that this particular urine test is useful

Prof Keertan Dheda, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of the Lung Infection and Immunity Unit at UCT

There are a lot of encouraging things that have happened… there are new vaccines that are tried and developed for TB. We had two new TB drugs that have been registered for the first time after almost 40 years and one of those drugs is available in South Africa.

Prof Keertan Dheda, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of the Lung Infection and Immunity Unit at UCT

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