Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Molecular & Clinical Diagnostics
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Genetic Discovery Could Aid Diagnosis of Childhood TB

Published: Thursday, May 01, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, May 01, 2014
Bookmark and Share
A distinctive genetic 'signature' found in the blood of children with TB offers new hope for improved diagnosis of the disease.

TB is very difficult to diagnose in children and is often recognised late when the child is already critically ill and the disease has spread from the lungs to the brain or other organs. Now an international team of researchers has shown that the disease can be identified in over 80 percent of cases by looking at 51 specific genes in the blood of affected children.

The researchers hope the findings - published on 30 April in the New England Journal of Medicine - could be used to develop a cheap, quick and effective diagnostic test.

Lead researcher, Professor Michael Levin, Director of the Wellcome Centre for Clinical Tropical Medicine at Imperial College London, explained: "We urgently need better methods to diagnose TB in children, so treatment can be started earlier and to avoid unnecessary treatment of children who are wrongly diagnosed. The symptoms of TB in children are common to many other childhood diseases, and the standard tests used on adults are not effective in children. Although the disease is treatable, thousands of children still die each year due to late diagnosis and many more are left with damage to their brain, bones and lungs." 

The study - funded through the EU and carried out at Wellcome Trust-supported units in Africa -looked at over 2,800 children admitted to hospitals in South Africa, Malawi and Kenya with symptoms of TB. The researchers identified those who had proven TB and those in whom TB was excluded as the cause of the child's illness.

Blood samples from the South African and Malawian children were examined to see which genes were activated or suppressed in those with the disease. The researchers found that TB could be distinguished from other diseases by looking at just 51 genes from over 30,000 in the human genome and seeing whether they were activated or suppressed. This information was used to give a single TB risk score for each child which, when tested in the Kenyan patients, accurately diagnosed over 80 percent of the children with TB.

Professor Levin said: "It has taken seven years and the combined efforts of clinicians and scientists in the UK, Africa and Singapore to identify this gene signature of childhood TB. What we now need is collaboration from biotechnology and industrial partners to turn these findings into a simple, rapid and affordable test for TB that can be used in hospitals worldwide."

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. A significant proportion of TB cases worldwide are children. An estimated 530,000 children became ill with TB in 2012 and 74,000 HIV-negative children died of TB.

Professor Brian Eley from the University of Cape Town, who led the clinical study in South Africa, said: "Childhood TB is a major problem in African hospitals. An accurate test for childhood TB would be an enormous breakthrough, enabling earlier diagnosis, reducing long hospital admissions for investigation of TB suspects, and limiting the number of children treated inappropriately." 

Dr Suzanne Anderson from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, who led recruitment in Malawi, said: "This study has highlighted the benefit of research institutions in Europe collaborating with hospitals in Africa to apply sophisticated technology to major public health problems."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

New Genetic Form of Obesity and Diabetes Discovered
Scientists have discovered a new inherited form of obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Researchers Develop New Breath Test to Diagnose Oesophageal and Gastric Cancer
Test will now be tested in a larger trial involving three hospitals in London.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
DNA Sequencing Traces The Spread Of Drug-Resistant TB
Scientists have for the first time used DNA sequencing to trace the fatal spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis between patients in the UK.
Monday, March 23, 2015
European Universities and Companies Form €2Bn Community to Promote Health
A consortium of 144 European companies, research institutes and universities has won EU backing to promote healthy living and active ageing.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Monitoring Effectiveness Of Hay Fever Immunotherapy
A new test for measuring histamine release from certain white blood cells could help doctors monitor the effectiveness of immunotherapy for hay fever.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Self-assembling Nanoparticle Could Improve MRI Scanning for Cancer Diagnosis
Scientists have designed the nanoparticle that targets tumours, to help doctors diagnose cancer earlier.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
New App Helps Patients Ensure Best Outcome from Surgery
MySurgery - New and innovative approach to reducing risk in surgery.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
MedCity Launched at Imperial College London
MedCity, a major new medical research and translation initiative, was launched at Imperial College London by the Mayor of London.
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Improved Diagnostic Technology may Obviate Need for Unpleasant Drug
A new method for measuring narrowing in the arteries of the heart may allow patients to be assessed for a stent without having to take a drug with unpleasant side effects.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Blood Clotting Finding may Lead to New Treatments
Researchers find that a key protein that causes the blood to clot is produced by blood vessels in the lungs and not just the liver.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Scientific News
Detecting HIV Diagnostic Antibodies with DNA Nanomachines
New research may revolutionize the slow, cumbersome and expensive process of detecting the antibodies that can help with the diagnosis of infectious and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and HIV.
Horse Illness Shares Signs of Human Disease
Horses with a rare nerve condition have similar signs of disease as people with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, a study has found.
Compound Doubles Up On Cancer Detection
Researchers have found that tagging a pair of markers found almost exclusively on a common brain cancer yields a cancer signal that is both more obvious and more specific to cancer.
The Age of Humans Controlling Microbes
Engineered bacteria could soon be used to detect environmental toxins, treat diseases, and sustainably produce chemicals and fuels.
Predictive Model for Breast Cancer Progression
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.
Are Changes to Current Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines Required?
Editorial suggests more research is needed to pinpoint age to end aggressive screening.
New Molecular Marker for Killer Cells
Cell marker enables prognosis about the course of infections.
Sniffing Out Cancer
Scientists have been exploring new ways to “smell” signs of cancer by analyzing what’s in patients’ breath.
New Test Detects All Viruses
A new test detects virtually any virus that infects people and animals, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where the technology was developed.
Scientists Create World’s Largest Catalog of Human Genomic Variation
An international team of scientists from the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium has created the world’s largest catalog of genomic differences among humans, providing researchers with powerful clues to help them establish why some people are susceptible to various diseases.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos