University team develops test that can identify TB bacteria


A NEW test for tuberculosis that can identify the exact bacteria causing the illness has been developed by a team at NUI Galway.

The diagnostic DNA test will allow for “rapid” confirmation of the bacteria and improve the effectiveness of treatment, according to the scientists.

Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/Aids as the greatest cause of death by a single infection, according to the World Health Organisation.

More than 95 per cent of cases, and fatalities, are in developing countries.

In 2010, almost nine million people contracted the disease and 1.4 million people died from it.

A group of eight bacteria known as the mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) cause the illness in humans.

NUIG microbiology lecturer Dr Thomas Barry and colleagues with the university’s molecular diagnostics research group realised that rapid identification of each of the bacteria involved would improve treatment outcome.

Some of the bacteria are naturally resistant to frequently used drugs.

The team developed a laboratory test, SeekTB, which takes somewhere between 90 minutes and three hours to produce results.

This type of test is not routinely performed in laboratories, Dr Barry said.

This means that there is little information on the true impact each member of the MTC has.

Scientists from the Netherlands and Germany helped to validate the technique.