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New test could identify resistant tuberculosis faster

Oxford Gene Technology LogoThe time needed to genetically sequence the bacteria causing tuberculosis (Mtb) from patient samples has been reduced from weeks to days using a new technique developed by a UCL-led collaboration including Oxford Gene Technology (OGT), CLC bio-Qiagen and the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, who are part of the European Union FP7-funded PATHSEEK consortium.This could help health service providers to better treat disease, control transmission of this infection, and monitor outbreaks.

Tuberculosis (TB) disease rates in some parts of London are as high as in Sub-Saharan Africa, and drug-resistant strains are becoming increasingly common. These require specific treatments, and if doctors know that a bug is resistant they can start therapy earlier, often leading to better outcomes.The current process identifies drug-resistant mutations using lab-grown samples, whilst the new method accesses the same information directly from patient mucus samples, taking weeks off the process.

As part of the PATHSEEK project, the technique has also been applied to other infections including chlamydia, HIV, hepatitis, herpes, influenza A, norovirus and cytomegalovirus. Diagnostic techniques that enable more precise treatments to be given earlier could help to combat drug resistance in a wide range of infections, not just TB. Dr John Anson, Executive Vice President R&D at OGT added: “It is a privilege to be involved with the PATHSEEK project which is yielding such fruitful results, and to play an active role in developing new techniques for the rapid detection and characterisation of such important diseases.”

The team hope to further refine the technique in future, to make it cheaper and simpler so that it could be used in countries with less economically-rich healthcare systems where drug-resistant TB is common. Read the full report here

OGT was founded in 1995 by gene-sequencing pioneer Professor Sir Ed Southern, and is based at Begbroke Science Park. For more information, visit the OGT website

Joanna Grant