Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Deadly Misdiagnosis: Can Millions be Saved from TB?

Patients queuing for treatment in a TB clinic.

Medicine rarely provides magic bullets, but, for the first time, a technology has been developed that might help countries like India (and our own South Africa) escape the endless cycle of mistaken diagnoses and haphazard treatment.

A company called Cepheid, based in Sunnyvale, California, now makes a device, called a GeneXpert, that allows doctors to diagnose TB in under two hours—without error or doubt. “The machine is so powerful that it could help end tuberculosis and I don’t think that is an exaggeration.’’

 An editorial three months ago in the New England Journal of Medicine also raised the possibility that, with proper use of this device, tuberculosis—a disease that has been around since the days of the Pharaohs—could be eliminated...

... Because the test looks for the TB bacterium itself, rather than for antibodies, latent infections don’t confuse the GeneXpert as they do blood test.

 “It is a system that removes the guesswork from one of our most deadly diseases.’’ Unlike the sputum technique, the molecular approach is straightforward: a patient spits into a cup, and the sample is placed in a cartridge that looks much like the pods used in many espresso machines. A computer examines the sample’s DNA to see if it contains the genetic signature of TB. Results are available within hours.
The GeneXpert can even determine whether the bacteria are resistant to rifampicin, the most effective and widely used component of the four-drug cocktail commonly prescribed for TB."

 The best part: “As long as there is electricity, the tests could be carried out by unskilled workers in any village."

**Felt so strange putting up this article & the picture shortly after posting on affluent Milanese woman and polka dots. I love the art of fashion and I love Medicine - I look after the sick because I can't bear to see them sick; and I do think it's possible to balance the two. German designer, Karl Lagerfeld thinks intellectuals have let sartorial standards slip and now dress like 'slobs,' so I try dress well to show I honor and respect my profession. 

What do you think?

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