Researchers at the University of Oxford, UK have developed a new technique for faster and accurate diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB).

The new method utilises whole genome sequencing to determine the genetic code and identify the type of TB bacterium a patient is infected with.

It is claimed to provide results after a week instead of a month.

The minimised time period is expected to improve the identification and treatment of drug-resistant infections, as well as other resistant pathogens.

Oxford Modernising Microbiology team head professor Derrick Crook said: “We are immensely proud of the contribution this makes to the prospects of better treatment of TB globally.

“This approach will also increasingly be used for many other infectious diseases.

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“Our ambition is to achieve this as quickly as possible so many infections can be better diagnosed and treated.”

The Oxford team analysed samples collected from countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

“It is claimed to provide results after a week instead of a month.”

The research was funded by Wellcome Trust, Public Health England, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MRC Newton Fund Genomics England and the National Institute for Health Research.

Wellcome Drug Resistant Infection head Tim Jinks said: “New tools for faster and more accurate diagnosis of infections are vital, so patients get the most appropriate and most effective treatments, and to help us track and stop drug resistant infection spreading.”

The genetic code identified during the diagnosis can be compared against a library of other TB bacteria with known drug-resistance, which aids clinicians in making the correct treatment choice in complex TB cases.


Image: Scanning electron micrograph of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. Photo: courtesy of NIAID.