Researchers from an international research consortium have found a new blood test that could predict if you have tuberculosis up to two years in advance.
The scientists have reported that they have developed a blood test that measures the expression levels of four genes that can more accurately predict the development of Tuberculosis in high-risk patients.
"We found that this prediction up to two years before the onset of the disease is possible through measurements of a combination of a four-gene signature in the blood," said the lead author Gerhard Walzl, Professor at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
"This signature, known as 'RISK4,' was found to be present in all cohorts in the study, from South Africa, Gambia and Ethiopia. RISK4 is a combination of four genes associated with inflammatory responses."
For the research, 4,466 HIV-negative and healthy people volunteered from the households of 1,098 index cases – people with active TB. Blood samples from the control group of 4,466 people were taken and stored.
At the end of the study period, when it was clear who among the participants had progressed to TB or who hadn’t, the team analyzed the blood samples of 79 individuals who progressed to TB between 3 and 24 months following exposure and 328 who were healthy during the 2 years of follow up.
Various combination of gene or protein levels that together result in a test readout associated with the current or future risk of developing tuberculosis - known as biosignatures were also measured.
"The individual components of this signature may not be sufficient to deliver an accurate diagnosis of prediction, but a combination of these markers improves its accuracy," added Walzl.
A number of companies have the ability to develop tests that measure the presence of these four genes. "We are hoping that primary health clinics will be able to use such a test and the reagents would then be readily available in that format, similar to the tests that are currently used to diagnose TB," said Walzl.
"Preventative treatment is several weeks long and has potential side effects," explained Walzl. "One wants to limit the number of people who have to undergo such treatment to those most likely to be at risk of developing active TB."
The findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
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