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Accurate genetic test for TB a step to eliminating killer disease

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:02
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Technology Review – GeneXpert resembles a high-end espresso maker. The device is simple to use. A technician squirts a sputum ­sample from a patient into what looks like a printer cartridge and then clicks that into the machine, which performs a reaction that amplifies specific bits of M. tuberculosis DNA if they are present. Fluorescent molecules light up when they come in contact with the targeted DNA, and the machine detects the fluorescence, sending the information to a computer. The entire process takes a mere two hours. Not only can GeneXpert detect the presence of the TB-causing bacteria, but it can accurately determine whether the bacterial DNA has the mutations known to make the disease resistant to the most commonly used drug.

In 2011, an estimated 8.7 million people became sick from M. tuberculosis. Roughly 1.4 million people die of TB each year; HIV is the only infectious agent that kills more.

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