Researchers from Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have helped develop a new blood test that could predict tuberculosis (TB) up to two years in advance in those living with someone with active TB.
The test still has to undergo clinical trials at different centres.
The research was published on Friday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The team included researchers from Germany‚ Gambia‚ the UK‚ Netherlands‚ Ethiopia‚ Uganda‚ Ethiopia‚ Malawi‚ Denmark and the US.
Stellenbosch University’s faculty of medicine and health sciences professor and lead author Gerhard Walzl said the test identifies those likely to develop the disease due to close contact with TB patients. This will help identify those who should get preventative treatment.
Walzl said they want to limit how many people get preventative treatment‚ because it takes several weeks and has potential side effects.
The blood test measures the prominence of the four-gene signature known as RISK4. It is found in people from SA‚ Gambia and Ethiopia and is linked with inflammatory responses.
Said the researchers: "The validity of the prediction in high-risk individuals in Asia‚ South America and other high-priority areas needs to be assessed."