TB drug resistance detected in under 15 minutes

18 November 2013

Newcastle-based diagnostics company QuantuMDx has been awarded a £1m grant by the UK Technology Strategy Board to develop a new rapid test, called Q-TB, to diagnose TB and test for drug resistance. It will build on expertise from specialists at St George’s University of London and collaboration with South African laboratories.

The device will enable doctors, nurses and health professionals to perform complex testing that will guide prescription of targeted drug treatments. The patient's sputum sample is automatically prepared in a specially designed sample cup, which is then integrated in a closed system with the device's disposable test cartridge. With the press of a single button, the device will automatically extract, amplify and detect the TB DNA using a range of innovative lab-on-a-chip technologies, providing a diagnostic and drug susceptibility result in under 15 minutes.

The test will integrate the DNA analysis device with sputum analysing technology and a TB identification system developed by St George’s, University of London and its partners.

In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people globally developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease. Currently neither the TB infection itself, nor those people with strains of the disease that are resistant to the most common drugs, can be identified quickly enough for patients to be given a specific prescription without considerable delays. The World Health Organisation has recently announced that a a public health crisis is being caused by about 3 million people with TB being missed by health systems across the world.

Professor Philip Butcher, professor of molecular medical microbiology at St George’s, University of London, said, “A simple, fast and accurate method to diagnose TB is urgently needed to effectively fight the disease and prevent its spread. It is a major advantage that this new test will also guide the treatment of patients.”

Dr Jonathan O’Halloran, QuantuMDx’s Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, said, “Currently MDR-TB diagnostic and drug resistance testing is carried out in slow, expensive referral or satellite laboratories. By the time results are returned weeks or months later, the patient is often lost to the system. The only way we can effectively treat and prevent the spread of MDR-TB is to perform rapid testing at the patients’ side, enabling the immediate prescription of targeted drug treatments.

"Our robust handheld device is ideal for use in field settings, and is responsive to the addition of hundreds, even thousands, of new diagnostic targets for  disease as these are discovered, thus providing a one-stop testing device meeting the testing needs of communities worldwide.” 


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