Tuberculosis (TB) could now be diagnosed with easy-to-obtain oral swab samples, revealed a new study published in the Scientific Reports.
Conventional method of diagnosing TB involves collecting and testing a person's sputum, the thick, gluey mucus coughed up from the lungs. Pathologists find it challenging to work with the sputum samples due to the 'horrible gloppy' nature of the sputum. Sputum can also hide pathogens from pathologists because it is difficult to dislodge bacteria from within the mucus' milieu. In order to produce sputum, the patients must cough, which puts sample-collecting public health workers at risk for contracting the disease.
Previous efforts to test for TB in the blood, urine or exhaled breath, have been limited by much lower accuracy, with detection rates typically below 50 percent. Moreover, safely obtaining blood or urine samples requires specialized certification. However, oral swabs can be easily collected by volunteers with minimal training.
Researcher Gerard Cangelosi said, "Care and control of the disease TB really requires prompt case-finding and detecting the disease with a simple oral swab could be a game changer for TB control because it could make diagnosis cheaper and easier."
However, the researchers stressed that the study is merely a proof of principle, limited by its small size and they are trying to expand this initial study into a large-scale controlled trial. The preliminary success of the oral swab testing method offers hope for greatly improved TB detection and control, especially in nations with limited public health resources.