Researchers at Asan Medical Center (AMC) have developed a film, known as "Slim Chip," which can redouble the accuracy of detecting pulmonary tuberculosis in patients compared to existing methods.
|From left, Professors Kim Sung-han, Lee Se-won, Shin Yong, and Kang Young-ae|
Pulmonary tuberculosis is contagious, and it is crucial to get treatment as soon as possible. However, diagnosing the disease can take up to two months. There has been an unmet medical need to establish an accurate course of action, such as quarantine and drug treatment, by using rapid test methods before the final overhaul results are available.
To address the issue, the team, led by Professors Shin Yong, Kim Sung-han, Lee Se-won, and Kang Young-ae at the hospital, developed the slim chip technology, which diagnoses pulmonary tuberculosis more than twice as accurate as of the existing method using a single thin film during the rapid pulmonary tuberculosis test.
The team's technology is a thin, palm-shaped film that uses the patient's sputum to condense the tuberculosis bacteria and extract the DNA from the concentrated tuberculosis bacteria to help diagnose pulmonary tuberculosis.
The method takes about two to three hours, similar to the existing rapid test methods.
When the research team applied the slim chip technology to the actual rapid test stage, the test sensitivity and specificity were 84 and 87 percent, respectively. When the researchers diagnosed patients with the conventional Xpert MTB/RIF assay test, the specificity of the test was 100 percent, but the sensitivity was 37 percent.
"The test using the slim chip did not differ much from the specificity of the existing test method, but the sensitivity was more than doubled, which, in turn, doubled the number of patients diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis," the team said.
The team expects that if the slim chip technology becomes commercially available, it will allow hospitals to start their pulmonary tuberculosis treatment based on accurate evidence before the results of the final examination.
"There is no sample pretreatment technology worldwide that concentrates pathogens and extracts nucleic acids like Slim Chip," Professor Shin said. "The use of only a thin film is likely to lower the cost of the test by ten times while showing similar efficacy as the conventional molecular diagnostic rapid tests."
As testers can concentrate and extract pathogens from various clinical samples, as well as sputum, they can apply it to diagnose various other diseases, Shin added.
European Respiratory Journal published the result of the study.
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