Early detection of tuberculosis can significantly help to give the patient timely treatment and thus curb the spread of the life-threatening disease.
Now, Mumbai’s PD Hinduja hospital is testing a new technique that could speed up diagnosis of TB, using a new gadget developed by a private Bangalore-based company. The gadget incorporates mobile phone technology for the test process and subsequent transmission of data and could potentially transform the critical diagnosis process.
The tuberculosis bacilli detection test, known as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), normally takes weeks, due to the slow growth rate of the bacilli. Besides, the sputum specimens have to be sent to laboratories at distant locations.
The new technology uses a molecular test, packed in a chip in the gadget, that could detect the presence of bacilli within an hour, considerably quicker than the traditional culture test. The test data can also be conveyed instantly through a blue-tooth system in the gadget.
Dr Camilla Rodrigues, department of microbiology at PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, said, “Within an hour we would be able to confirm whether the person is suffering from TB or not. The chip-based test has been designed to simplify the process from ‘sample to result’ so that laboratories with minimal infrastructure can easily perform these tests routinely and report the results immediately. Also, the indigenous machine is portable.”
The hospital has tested over 200 patients using the gadget. “Our preliminary study shows that the Truenat MTB test can be utilized in near-care settings to provide quick and accurate diagnosis,” the doctor said. The new process is also cheaper than the traditional testing system. The company which has developed the technology also plans to adapt it for detection of the drug-resistant TB strains.
The Mumbai civic health department uses the GeneXpert machine that can detect multi-drug resistant TB in about two hours. But this is costlier than the Truenat MTB system.