May 8, 2006
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
Phone: (973) 972-3000
UMDNJ Researcher Helps Develop New Rapid Molecular Diagnostic TB Test
WHO, Gates Foundation Initiative Provide $3.7 Million Funding
NEWARK—A researcher with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has teamed with a molecular diagnostics company to develop a new diagnostic test for tuberculosis that will identify those who have TB in less than two hours.
Dr. David Alland, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark, is collaborating with scientists from the Cepheid Corporation, a Sunnyvale, California-based molecular diagnostics company, to apply their latest biotech innovations to develop an affordable diagnostic test to quickly identify those who have TB.
The collaboration between Dr. Alland and the Cepheid Corp. was arranged by the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics and is supported by a $3.7 million grant over the next three years by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a simple but sophisticated diagnostic test that will accurately and rapidly determine if someone has TB.
Dr. Alland and Cepheid’s GeneXpert system are teaming with the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics to produce a new test to more easily identify those stricken with the deadly bacterial disease. Last year, there were approximately three million cases reported worldwide. There were 485 documented cases in New Jersey in 2005.
This diagnostic instrument will be integrated into desk-top equipment, Dr. Alland explained. Sputum samples from patients suspected of having TB will be added directly to a small cartridge that will be inserted into the instrument. That will provide us with a readout produced by the apparatus in under two hours.
The sophistication of this new technology will have the sensitivity to provide health care professionals with rapid results that currently require days to weeks to produce, Dr. Alland added. Our medical school laboratory developed the TB assay and adapted it to the Cepheid-manufactured cartridge. This will be the first time that sputum samples are processed automatically for fully integrated and automated nucleic acid analysis. The device also will predict whether a patient has TB that is resistant to the drug rifampin, which usually indicates that the TB is multi-drug resistant.
Today's standard culture method of TB detection takes days to process and frequently is inaccurate. Lack of effective diagnostics exacerbates the problem. With faster detection, physicians can better treat and quarantine contagious patients.
A chronic bacterial infection, TB causes more deaths worldwide than any other infectious disease. The spread of TB has been exacerbated by the large number of global travelers, worldwide rise of multi-drug resistant strains, and the global spread of HIV which markedly increases susceptibility to tuberculosis. Immunodeficient HIV-positive patients are particularly vulnerable to TB, which is responsible for the deaths of at least 40 percent of patients in this group.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Alland, call Tom Capezzuto at (973) 972-7273.