A new diagnostic system coming out of South Africa could improve the speed and efficiency of the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the near future.

The system called TBDx, developed by the Aurum Institute, the South African National Health Laboratory and imaging company Guardian Technologies International, could be available in months.

The TBDx system essentially takes digital pictures of sputum samples from patients and examines it for the TB structural “fingerprint”; they say the same way airport scanners can identify explosives.

According to the developers, the system can diagnose TB within 24 hours, with little microscopic work.

Current methods of tuberculosis microscopy can take days to weeks depending on if the specimen is the sputum sample itself or growth from a mycobacterial culture.

Company officials say that TBDx is at least 10 percent more accurate than conventional laboratory testing. In addition, they talk about the affordability of the screening method.

Some say this is not a panacea in TB diagnosis as tuberculosis can infect any part of the body, not just the lungs.

TB is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It primarily infects the lungs but can infect virtually any organ in the body. Extrapulmonary infection is more common in children and those with immunodeficiencies. Less than 10% of immunocompetent people exposed will develop TB in their lifetime.

Associated Sites:

Aurum Institute

South Africa National Health Laboratory Services

Guardian Technologies International