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Making progress towards a diagnostic test for active tuberculosis

(Vienna, 10 May 2012) A simple blood test could show whether a patient has active tuberculosis. This is the finding of a study by MedUni Vienna researchers, led by Stefan Winkler from the University Department of Internal Medicine I, which has now been published in the top online journal PLoS ONE.

178 patients with possible active tuberculosis (TB) were examined. 60 were found to have lung TB. This was in fact discovered using a cytokine profile: patients with active TB were found to have a significantly raised number of CD4-T cells producing type 1 cytokines.

Winkler: “This finding could lead to a real diagnostic test being developed for TB in the near future. The CD4-T cells can be demonstrated very quickly in a blood test, whereas the current system uses blood cultures which can take up to eight weeks.”  

Tuberculosis, alongside malaria and HIV, is one of the most widespread infectious diseases in the world. Around a third of the world’s population, it is estimated, is infected with the TB bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (latent TB), with around 9 million people developing symptoms from it each year (active TB). Various factors which lead to weakening of the immune system can therefore trigger activation of the infection with an outbreak of the disease. In Austria, around 800 cases of TB are notified a year to the health authorities.

Winkler: “What’s still missing, however, is an efficient and rapid test for active TB. The cytokine profile identified could represent a major step on the road towards a diagnostic test."

Service: PLoS ONE
“Peripheral T Cell Cytokine Responses for Diagnosis of Active Tuberculosis”. J. Nemeth, H. Winkler, R. Zwick, C. Müller, R. Rumetshofer, L. Boeck, O. Burghuber, S. Winkler. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35290. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035290

Peripheral T Cell Cytokine Responses for Diagnosis of Active Tuberculosis