New Diagnostic for TB Introduced by Health Ministers

TORONTO, March 23, 2012 /CNW/ - Yesterday the National Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and the Nunavut Health Minister, Keith Peterson unveiled a new diagnostic device which will help fight the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in the North. The device, Xpert MTB/RIF has just recently been approved by Health Canada to diagnose TB.

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The testing device can identify TB and also drug resistant TB from a sputum sample in only 90 minutes. It is portable and automated, and can be used by health workers in nursing stations or small hospitals. The technology is based on a new Molecular method that identifies the TB bacteria's specific DNA in the sample. Not only is this much faster than the current laboratory methods but it is also more accurate and specific. Drug resistant TB is especially difficult to diagnose by current methods and to treat.

The Xpert MTB/RIF was developed by the US company Cepheid and the Foundation for Innovative and New Diagnostics (FIND), a non-profit group funded by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. It has been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

March 24th is World TB Day. This day is recognized in order to bring awareness to the global TB epidemic and to remind people that TB remains a significant public health issue around the world. The WHO estimates that there were over 9.4 million new cases and almost 2 million deaths caused by TB in 2009, mainly in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

In Canada, regular outbreaks continue to occur, especially among the native and immigrant communities. The rate of TB cases is much higher among the native population compared to the non-native, and is also high among immigrants from developing countries. Nunavut has by far the highest rate of TB in Canada. Besides the 3 Territories, the rate of TB cases has been highest in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

TB is highly contagious but is curable with appropriate antibiotic treatment. It is primarily a disease of poverty, and preys on people whose health is already weakened by poor diet, smoking or alcohol abuse. Crowded housing also encourages the spread of the disease. According to the World Health Organization, each person with active TB can infect on average 10 to 15 people a year.

For further information:

Dan Lichtman, President, Inter Medico (Canadian distributor),
905-470-2520 x201,