The future of TB in South Africa is looking bright with scientists having developed a new scientific method of diagnosis.

In the future no-one should have to wait for up to 42 days to receive a tuberculous (TB) diagnosis. This is after an international team of academics found a quicker and more accurate scientific method of diagnosing TB.

In a research paper published in Science Translational Medicine on February 28, just before TB Awareness Month in March, the team, which includes four Wits academics, reported on a method of diagnosis that uses a stain on human samples, which immediately and accurately identified the TB virus under a fluorescent light.

The stain was created and provided to Wits by Stanford University chemistry professor Carolyn Bertozzi and her team.

The Wits team was made up of Professor Bavesh Kana, Dr Christopher Ealand and Dr Julian Peters from the Wits Centre of Excellence in Biomedical TB Research (CBTBR) as well as Dr Neil Martinson, the acting director of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit.

Martinson said, “This method can reduce the initial losses of patients as our research has the promise to be put in clinics and make a significant difference in the process of diagnosis.” He added that the method “is hugely beneficial in starting the treatment of TB immediately.”

Kana, head of CBTBR, said that the team was hoping that this faster method of diagnosis would be rolled out to health centres around the country. He said it was “all about getting the patient and being able to keep the patient where they are while tests are being done.” That means results come back while the patient is still waiting, he said. “This avoids losing the patient and not being able to diagnose them”.

“I refuse to go down in history as part of the generation that presides over this senseless loss of human life,” Kana said.


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