Satellite Banner
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 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ 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.

Scientific News
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Best Test to Diagnose Strangles in Horses Identified
New research by Dr. Ashley Boyle of New Bolton Center’s Equine Field Service team shows that the best method for diagnosing Strangles in horses is to take samples from a horse’s guttural pouch and analyze them using a loop-mediated amplification (LAMP) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
Rapid, Portable Ebola Diagnostic
Scientists confirmed the efficiency of the novel Ebola detection method in field trials.
Detecting When Hormone Treatment for Breast Cancer Stops Working
Scientists have developed a highly sensitive blood test that can spot when breast cancers become resistant to standard hormone treatment, and have demonstrated that this test could guide further treatment.
Packaging and Unpacking of the Genome
New research improves understanding of the importance of histone replacement.
New Way to Find DNA Damage
University of Utah chemists devised a new way to detect chemical damage to DNA that sometimes leads to genetic mutations responsible for many diseases, including various cancers and neurological disorders.
How Different Treatments for Crohn's Effect the Microbiome
Different treatments for Crohn's disease in children affects their gut microbes in distinct ways, which has implications for future development of microbial-targeted therapies for these patients, according to a study led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Charting the 'Genomic Biography' of Leukemia
A new study by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard offers a glimpse of the wealth of information that can be gleaned by combing the genome of a large collection of leukemia tissue samples.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos