New research could improve TB diagnosis

A study has found that a tuberculosis infection immediately alters the diversity of bacteria in the gut, which means that a stool test could be used to diagnose TB, making the process much simpler and quicker.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research in the United States have found there was a decrease in gut bacteria in faecal samples collected from mice infected with TB. This change was noticeable within days after the mice were exposed to TB bacteria.

“The fact that the bacterial populations change in the gut means that we can begin to use this observation for TB diagnosis,” said study leader Kathryn Winglee. “TB diagnosis is currently challenging, but a simple stool sample test … might improve diagnosis,” she added.

There are several ways of diagnosing TB which include a chest x-ray; sputum smear microscopy where a sputum sample is looked at under a microscope; a TB skin test which checks the system’s response to TB bacteria; and a TB blood test. But usually, further testing is required  to determine the presence of TB bacteria, which can be both costly and time-consuming.

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