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Researchers advance a new tool to diagnose tuberculosis

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Researchers advance a new tool to diagnose tuberculosis

Conicet researchers reported that they are making progress in the development of a new method to optimize the diagnosis of tuberculosis.

It is a quick and low-cost analysis kit that allows the bacteria that causes the disease to be identified with the naked eye by a color change in the samples, resulting in a test that is 200 times more sensitive than classic detection with a microscope.

“Complete development presupposes a modern and comprehensive tool, which can provide enormous advantages to carry out the necessary actions to mitigate an ancient scourge, which sadly persists and worsens in today’s society,” said Claudio Berli, researcher in charge of the project at the Technological Institute of Development for the Chemical Industry (Intec), which depends on Conicet and the National University of the Litoral (UNL).

Tuberculosis: how the new tool used by Conicet works

The Intect team is working on the development of a method for molecular detection of the DNA of the Koch bacillus, the bacteria that causes the disease tuberculosis, as reported in a statement from Conicet.

The advantage of this tool is that it allows colorimetric reading of results with the naked eye, without the need for microscopes, and following methods and devices approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Another benefit is the reduction of deadlines, since classic methods take several days to report the final result.

According to figures from the National Ministry of Health, during 2021 in Argentina there were more than 12 thousand cases of tuberculosis and 734 deaths from this pathology, which has worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The diagnosis of tuberculosis has historically been based on microscope detection of the Koch bacillus, with few technological advances for 125 years.

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More recently, PCR methods with greater sensitivity have been achieved, but they are kits with little distribution in our country, “both due to their high costs and because they depend on the continuous provision of the necessary supplies,” the text explained.

The project led by Berli together with Horacio Rodríguez, from the Institute of Health and Environment of the Coast (Isal) and Guillermo García Effron, from the Faculty of Biochemistry and Biological Sciences of the UNL, arises from a demand made to the Conicet Scientific and Technological Center in Santa Fe by the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases “Emilio Coni” (Iner).

Conicet: how the research of the new tool to diagnose tuberculosis continues

The research has just concluded its second stage, in which the methodology was applied to more than 60 real clinical samples from hospitals in Santa Fe and the City of Buenos Aires.

The diagnosis is made “through a simpler and more modern method than PCR – called LAMP -, which allows colorimetric reading of results with the naked eye. The proof of concept was carried out on some clinical samples identified as positive and negative with other reference methods,” Berli explained.

The result was “very positive, since the molecular technique developed showed excellent agreement with the reference methods, also proving to be 200 times more sensitive than the microscopy test, considered the maximum reference,” stated Conicet.

According to Berli, this kit could be used in laboratories of medium complexity, with existing or very low-cost instruments and with minimally trained operators.

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For this reason, the third stage will consist of evaluating the test outside the research laboratory, and doing so by different technical operators.

It will also seek to couple the diagnostic system with the development of a mobile application for the cell phone to guide the trials, manage information in real time, transfer results and facilitate monitoring.

Once this stage is completed, “the technology will be practically ready to be transferred and to be able to begin validations by regulatory authorities,” the researchers concluded.

* With information from Agencia Télam

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