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2010 NIAID Year in Review

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Rapidly and Effectively Diagnosing Tuberculosis

Diagnostic Test Provides Rapid Detection of Tuberculosis and One of its Drug-Resistant Forms

Photograph of a hand holding the Xpert MTB/RIF® cartridge.
The Xpert MTP/RIF test enables rapid diagnosis of tuberculosis. Credit: Cepheid

Current methods for diagnosing tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant disease can take weeks, which can leave patients untreated for long periods and facilitate the spread of TB infection to the broader community. Through an NIAID-funded public-private partnership, researchers have developed a two-hour test that detects Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, and resistance to rifampin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat TB. The diagnostic test, known as the Xpert MTB/RIF assay, is an automated test that works directly from a patient’s sputum without requiring a lengthy bacterial culture. This rapid diagnostic assay is as sensitive as currently available methods but with the added benefit of improved safety for laboratory personnel and inclusion of internal controls to assure test accuracy.

Simple to use, the test enables patients to receive their diagnosis during a single clinic visit. As part of a larger diagnostic system, the GeneXpert test platform may also provide a cost-effective approach for the diagnosis of other infectious diseases. The World Health Organization recently endorsed the Xpert MTB/RIF assay for further evaluation and use in global diagnosis of drug-resistant TB.

Reference: Blakemore R, Story E, Helb D, Korb J, Banada P, Owens MR, Chakravorty S, Jones M, Alland D. Evaluation of the analytical performance of the Xpert MTB/RIF assay. J Clin Microbiol. 2010 July;48(7):2495-501.

Last Updated November 10, 2011

Last Reviewed June 03, 2011