Monday, March 24, 2014

New tech offers hope of tackling TB in South Africa

Meera Senthilingam in Face masks incorporating satellite tracking and cough samplers are among the new technologies being tested to help researchers in South Africa try to control the epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in South Africa, largely due to the high burden of coinfection with HIV. The country is the only one in the world, apart from neighbouring Mozambique, where the numbers of new infections are continuing to rise, according to the 2013 WHO global TB report.

“We need to disrupt transmission and stop the emergence of new cases of TB,” says Grant Theron from the University of Cape Town, who is leading a study
to investigate the disease’s spread through the population. “The epidemic of TB has changed in South Africa and the majority of people with drug-resistant TB are now contracting it directly rather than developing it over time.”

Theron is using various technologies to identify the most infectious patients in a community and track their movements.

“We’ve developed a cough aerosol sampler which can identify how much TB bacteria a patient has in their cough,” he says. “Only a few patients actually carry live, viable bacteria in their coughs and these patients pose the most risk in their communities.”...

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