Young children cannot spit up a sputum specimen and to get a sputum off them, different methods are needed which are complex, invasive, stressful and painful. Photo: Mint
Young children cannot spit up a sputum specimen and to get a sputum off them, different methods are needed which are complex, invasive, stressful and painful. Photo: Mint

Stool test highly effective way to identify TB in children, say researchers

The researchers say the ‘breakthrough’ will enable identification of thousands of children with tuberculosis, drug resistant TB, drastically reducing the number of children aged under five dying from the disease

Hague, Netherlands: In a major breakthrough researchers have found that simple stool test is a highly effective way to identify Tuberculosis (TB) in children.

“It doesn’t matter whether we bring in sputum or stool for testing,"said Petra De Haas, laboratory adviser at the KNCV Tuberculosis foundation at Hague. Adding that the “breakthrough" will enable identification of thousands of children with tuberculosis (TB) and multi drug resistant TB, drastically reducing the number of children aged under five dying from TB.

Young children cannot spit up a sputum specimen and to get a sputum off them, different methods are needed which are complex, invasive, stressful and painful. “To test children need to be hospitalized, gastric aspiration is used in which a tube is brought into the child’s stomach via his or her nose," she added.

The researchers that developed the method in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis programs of Ethiopia and Indonesia are now in discussions with the World health organisation (WHO) proposing changes in the protocol for testing TB.

The new method involved mixing a sample of stool with a sample of the SR (sample reagent) can be done on the available GeneXpert equipment. “GeneXpert can be applied on stool samples for diagnosing TB," added Haas.

At present an estimated 239,000 children die every year of TB. Researchers say children with TB rarely die when they standard treatment for the disease but 90% of children who die from TB worldwide went untreated. “No child should die from TB," said Jose’ Luis Castro, executive director of the International Union Gaiabst Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union).

Kitty van Weezenbeek, executive director of the KNCV TB foundation said, “The potential of this method is enormous and means that being able to diagnose TB and MDR TB from stool would mean that we have a method in our hands that can diagnose TB at the lowest health care level and can bring testing to hundreds of thousands of people. In that way children can now get TB diagnosis at primary health centres, where that is currently not possible".

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