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March 1, 2000

Fast, Accurate Tuberculosis Test is Well-suited for Developing Nations

An international team of scientists announced today their development of a rapid and reliable method for detecting tuberculosis, one that is inexpensive and sensitive enough to be used in the field by health officers in developing countries. Called microscopic observation broth-drug susceptibility assay (MODS), the test can quickly and cheaply detect tiny amounts of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacillus, as well as determine whether a particular strain of MTB is resistant to any drug. The study appeared in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Each year there are an estimated eight million new cases of clinical tuberculosis, and three million deaths due to the bacillus. Most cases occur in developing, resource-poor countries, where the conventional tests for MTB are simply not feasible because of their high costs and equipment requirements.

The sensitivity of the MODS assay, tested in Peru, compared well with that of other, more expensive and time-consuming methods. Said author Robert H. Gilman, MD, MPH, professor, International Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, "MODS is a rapid, inexpensive, sensitive, and specific method for detecting MTB and identifying drug-resistant strains. It is particularly appropriate for use in developing countries burdened by significant infection rates and increasing numbers of multiple-drug-resistant cases."

This study was supported in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development and a Fogarty Training Grant for Emerging Diseases and Tuberculosis from the National Institutes of Health.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham @ 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.