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Coming soon: a faster, cheaper, more accurate tuberculosis test

Tuberculosis is still killing people at the rate of over one million per year, mostly in the developing world. An untreated TB carrier in whom the pathogen is active will infect 10 to 15 more persons annually, on average, according to the World Health Organization.

To go undiagnosed is, of course, to go untreated. Yet all existing modes of diagnosis are some combination of slow, inaccurate, and expensive. So it's encouraging to learn that Stanford's Jianghong Rao, PhD, postdoc Hexin Xie, PhD, and their associates have designed a TB test that is fast, accurate, and cheap - a development recently reported in Nature Chemistry.

Microbiologist William Jacobs, Jr., PhD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York is quoted in this news article in the journal Nature as saying:

Transmission as a result of delays in seeking treatment — or prolonged ineffectual treatment — is a substantial cost to society, so a method that will resolve inaccuracies in the testing method is a breakthrough... This method is powerful because it does not rely on access to a microscope and lab facilities. And it is much more sensitive than the other tests currently available.

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