Dutch Scientists Develop Crucial New TB Test

A team of scientists based at the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation in The Hague have developed a new, non-intrusive test to detect tuberculosis (TB) in children.

It’s estimated that, globally, 240,000 children die from TB every year. If diagnosed and treated early the disease is completely curable.

Simplified testing

Young children have a hard time coughing up the sputum needed to test for tuberculosis. Current testing requires the insertion of a tube into the stomach to collect some of the stomach content (sputum) a painful procedure for a child that often requires staying the night in a hospital.

Scientist in The Hague developed a simple procedure of testing the stool samples of children under five, eliminating the need for them to travel to a large health facility. Especially important in remote communities.

Resolute research

Researcher, Petra de Haas, a laboratory consultant at KNCV, whose idea to use feces instead of sputum was met with criticism because scientists said a multitude of bacteria would make it difficult to isolate the DNA of the TB bacterium, was praised for her tenacity by KNVC director Kitty van Weezenbeek.

The results of the trial were unveiled at a global conference on lung health in The Hague. The test could save many of the 650 children who die of TB every day, said Petra de Haas.

Life-saving potential

“The potential of this method is enormous and means we have a method in our hands that can diagnose TB at the lowest healthcare level and bring testing to hundreds of thousands of people,” said Kitty van Weezenbeek, executive director of KNCV, which developed the method.

Apart from detecting TB, the test can also determine if the bacterium is resistant to the usual antibiotic used to fight the disease. ‘If that is not the case, the diagnosis is multi-resistant TB, which requires a different treatment,’ says, Van Weezenbeek.

TB killed at least 1.7-million people in 2017, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), making the airborne infection the world’s deadliest infectious disease.