Duke UniversityTuberculosis has claimed so many lives and doctors continue to be struggling, to recommend the best treatment that, will help overcome the disease. But a recent study, at Duke University Medical Center may help ease the worry a bit. The study apparently revealed to have developed a novel technique that may quickly identify between people with active and dormant tuberculosis.

This technique will not only prove to be beneficial for the doctors, to recommend efficient and timely medication, but also aid, to limit the exposure to the disease. The examiners experimented, if employing patterns in the immune response to tuberculosis could be helpful, in improving rapid diagnosis of the disease.

Jason Stout, M.D., M.H.S., senior author, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center remarked, “Current blood tests for tuberculosis are reasonably good at distinguishing between uninfected and infected persons, but cannot tell the whether an infected person has active, and possibly infectious, tuberculosis or has latent infection. Generally a culture is required to tell the difference between latent infection and active tuberculosis, but a culture usually requires weeks to deliver a result. A rapid test that could tell the difference between latent and active tuberculosis would be a major step forward.”

A total of 71 people, were included in this study. These people either belonged to the group with active tuberculosis, with latent tuberculosis infection or those who were not infected with tuberculosis. The scientists then exposed the collected samples, to pieces of the tuberculosis bacteria, in order to stimulate an immune response. They then, measured the levels of 25 specific proteins known as cytokines.

This helped them to identify, the presence of a pattern, which helped them differentiate among the three groups. It appeared that, a pattern of two cytokines, called MCP-1 and IL-15 were reasonably good, at differentiating between persons sick with TB and persons infected, but not sick. The scientists also noted, a third cytokine, called IP-10. It appeared to be beneficial, in promising to help distinguish between, uninfected persons and infected individuals.

Dr. Stout said, “These findings could lead to earlier diagnosis of active tuberculosis, which could be beneficial for both the sick person and others around her or him who might be spared from infection. There is also the potential for avoiding unnecessary and potentially toxic medications in persons who are not sick with tuberculosis.”

The scientists had expected to identify all three cytokines, as possible individual predictors of tuberculosis infection, but were surprised at the usefulness of the combination of MCP-1 and IL-15. However, the scientists claim to conduct further study, to thoroughly observe and conclude, if scrutinizing additional cytokines may improve, the accuracy of the results.

The study was reported at the ATS 2010 International Conference in New Orleans.