Scientists at the University of Cape Town, in partnership with the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle, have completed a decade-long project to develop a biomarker test that predicts whether a person is at risk of developing full-blown TB.
The World Health Organisation estimates that around a third of the world’s population is latently infected with TB.
The prognostic blood test, based on the human immune response, can predict whether a person with such a latent infection will develop TB more than 12 months in advance. A large clinical trial is now planned to see whether targeted preventive therapy will help to slow TB infections.
The clinical trial, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will start in 2016 and run for two years. If it is successful, a mass campaign using a “screen-and-treat” strategy could have a major impact by stopping TB before it becomes infectious and can be transmitted to others.
This international collaboration is led by the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) at UCT, in partnership with the Aurum Institute, the Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC).
Photo by Michael Hammond.
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