This week the World Health Organization endorsed a new tuberculosis (TB) test called Xpert MTB/RIF. Xpert is a revolutionary new technology that, if taken to scale in endemic countries, could completely change the public health approach to diagnosing and treating TB, which remains one of the greatest killers on the planet.
Xpert provides a rapid, accurate diagnosis of TB without the need for a sophisticated lab. It detects many cases that are missed by current technology, which is more than a century old, including for people who are HIV positive — where TB mortality is highest and where the majority of cases are missed by current frontline tools. Rapid diagnosis will allow patients to start appropriate treatment in hours as opposed to weeks or even months. Since over a quarter of all AIDS-related deaths are caused by TB, Xpert is a critical tool in the fight against AIDS as well.
If the new diagnostic is widely implemented, there could be a real revolution in TB treatment, with people receiving treatment faster, rapidly stopping them from infecting others, and particularly for those who are HIV positive, getting them onto lifesaving TB treatment before the TB kills them – which is sometimes the sad consequence of having to wait over two months for some of the existing diagnostic tools.
There has been widespread coverage of the new Xpert test in the press:
This is the first step in a fundamental transformation in how we fight this disease and deserves the full support of all governments, including donors and countries where TB is present that will be changing treatment guidelines and rolling out the new machines.
We at RESULTS, through our work as part of the ACTION project, are thrilled this new, rapid and accurate test has been endorsed by the WHO and look forward to a quick roll-out to countries where it is most needed so it can begin detecting TB and saving lives.