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The Tuberculosis Problem

In India, it's quite common to be misdiagnosed with tuberculosis by unreliable health care workers at community clinics using less-than-accurate blood tests, says The New Yorker's Michael Specter. When these misdiagnosed patients take the antibiotics they're required to take for six months, they actually end up waking up any latent TB infection, only they've also made the TB drug resistant, and have a higher chance of passing it on to others and dying from it. However, Specter says a tool from Cepheid could help medical professionals in India accurately diagnose the disease, and even tell if a certain strain is drug resistant. Cepheid's GeneXpert works by analyzing the DNA of the organisms in a given sample — it's being used successfully in many hospitals. The challenge for Indian health officials lies in getting the technology to the more remote, and poorer, areas of the country that really need it, and teaching people how to use it, Specter says. Until a way can be found to accurately and successfully diagnose the disease on a consistent basis, he adds, bringing down the rate of the disease in India, especially among the poor, would be very difficult.