Scientist develops TB rapid testing kit

Tuberculosis rapid diagnostic testing kit. Inset is Dr Misaki Wayengera. Photo / Tony Abet

What you need to know:

  • The current TB testing technologies take one to two to give results and are not efficient in detecting low levels of infection before a patient is sick, according to health experts. The technologies also require electricity to operate.

A scientist at Makerere University has developed a rapid diagnostic test kit for tuberculosis (TB) that can give results in five minutes.

The current TB testing technologies take one to two to give results and are not efficient in detecting low levels of infection before a patient is sick, according to health experts. The technologies also require electricity to operate.

 In an interview with Daily Monitor yesterday, Dr Misaki Wayengera, the developer of the kit, said it is the next generation of TB diagnostic technology aimed at predicting the infectious agent that causes the disease well before it becomes plenty in the body to cause sickness.

Up to 240 Ugandans are infected with TB every day. Of these, 30 die, according to the Ministry of Health statistics.

“The kit is being validated by the TB laboratory in Mulago. It is the Deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA] replication predictive tests. It is the first [of its kind in the country]. You have to wait for the related data on performance,” Dr Misaki said. 

He added: “It works like HIV [rapid diagnostic] test kit. It can detect the bug directly or detect antibodies produced by the host against the bug. It uses blood, sputum, saliva, and body fluid.”

With this kit, a sample (blood or sputum) is placed at the end of the testing stick and a chemical called a buffer is added to facilitate the testing process.

 The buffer causes the antibodies in the blood to flow along the test kit’s stick. When they pass over the section with the antigens, if there are any antibodies for TB present then they will stick to these antigens and change colour.

If there is one strip it means it is a negative result, the person doesn’t have TB but if there are two stripes then it means it’s a positive result. If there are no stripes it means the test did not work properly.

Dr Misaki said the kit, which was developed through government funding, will be sold at less than $1 (Shs3,769) to increase access to testing services for a more effective fight against TB.

Currently, the cost of testing for TB ranges from $3 (Shs11,308) to $25 (Shs18,847).

The validation involves assessing how accurately the kit can detect TB. After this, the kit will be taken for approval by the National Drug Authority (NDA). 

When asked about the procedure that one follows to approve a diagnostic kit in Uganda, Dr David Nahamya, the secretary to NDA, said he would get back to us. He had not yet done so by press time.

The country has a World Health Organisation accredited local manufacturing facility run by Prof Vinand Nantulya, Astel Diagnostics Limited which manufactures rapid diagnostic testing kits.

About the developer

Dr Misaki Wayengera also developed the Ebola testing kit which is being validated in South Africa.

He is also the head of scientists advising the government on Covid-19.

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