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NIH Earmarks $2M for Pediatric TB Biomarker Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — The National Institutes of Health announced that it aims to award $2 million in grant funding in fiscal year 2017 for research around new biomarkers to diagnose active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) in children, including those infected with HIV.

While skin and blood tests already exist for detecting TB infection, identifying active disease typically requires bacterial analysis of a sputum sample. However, the paucity of bacilli in young patients and their inability to produce sputum samples makes this approach problematic, the NIH said, adding, "Children present with a wide spectrum of disease manifestations, severity, and with non-specific clinical symptoms that mimic other childhood respiratory diseases."

As such, the availability of non-sputum diagnostic biomarkers for TB would help improved diagnosis and treatment of pediatric patients, and provide a more accurate characterization of the epidemiology of TB’s disease burden in children.

To address this issue, the NIH said it will commit $2 million in fiscal 2017 to fund one to three research projects identifying and/or validating biofluid- or tissue-based biomarkers for active TB in children.

Such biomarkers, the NIH noted, may be obtained in should have limited inter-patient variability, and should exhibit significant changes in activity, concentration, or other such measures to identify disease. The agency is particularly interested in biomarkers that are easily obtained and are appropriate for diagnosis of children younger than five.

Specific areas of research covered by this funding opportunity include the application of currently used adult TB biomarkers in children; the miniaturization of biomarker measurement methods for pediatric use; the identification or development of TB biomarkers that can be used in combination with or instead of current diagnostic strategies; and genetic biomarkers.

Projects to develop assays based on new TB biomarkers will be considered, the NIH added, but clinical trials will not be considered for this funding opportunity.

Additional information can be found here.