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Latest UCT Patent Predicts Likelihood of Active TB

3 Dec 2015 - 15:00
Photo captured by Michael Hammond

UCT scientists have completed a decade-long project to create a TB biomarker that will test whether a latent TB carrier will develop full-blown TB. The project was undertaken by the UCT scientists in partnership with the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle, and a UK patent has been filed recently for the biomarker.

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that roughly a third of the population is latently infected with TB, South Africa has the third highest prevalence of TB in the world. The most recent WHO statistics regarding TB prevalence has estimated an incidence of 380,000 cases of active TB in 2014. These statistics cannot be presumed to be an accurate prediction of total TB incidents due to the carriers of latent TB not displaying symptoms, therefore not having cause to be tested for the disease.

With the development of the prognostic blood test, which is based on the human immune response, a prediction can be made whether a person with such a latent infection will develop TB more than 12 months in advance. A large clinical trial is now planned to see whether targeted preventive therapy will help to slow TB infections.

The clinical trial, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will start in 2016 and run for two years. If it is successful, a mass campaign using a “screen-and-treat” strategy could have a major impact by stopping TB before it becomes infectious and can be transmitted to others.

This international collaboration is led by the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) at UCT, in partnership with the Aurum Institute, the Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC).