MBHG part of a large multi-national project “ENDx-TB” to improve TB diagnostics

The Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group (SU-IRG) within the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University has secured funding for a large international National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant on tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics, which they lead together with partners in South Africa, The Gambia, Vietnam and the USA.

The project titled “Evaluation of New Diagnostics for Incident, Active and Recurrent TB (ENDx-TB)” will compare side-by-side the most promising new tests for TB, including point-of-care (PoC) diagnostics and predictive screening, across a wide range of health care settings to identify the best tests for different health care levels, for triage to higher levels of care, for treatment initiation, for treatment monitoring and for identifying those at greatest need for preventative therapy.

PoC tests are medical tests performed “in the field” for rapid diagnostics and do not require a laboratory or advanced skills for processing. These tests allow for improved health care in low-resource settings, generating results within minutes allowing for rapid treatment of patients on-site to improve health outcomes and prevent the spread of infection in the case of communicable diseases.

A PoC triage test is needed in low-resource settings to prioritize those with the highest risk for TB disease to higher levels of care. On the other hand, more complex, resource-intensive but highly accurate tests would improve diagnosis in well-developed health care systems and in specialized medical facilities, even in less developed settings. Varied diagnostic capacity may co-exist in different regions of the same country, for instance in the rural vs urban areas of South Africa and therefore, a comprehensive battery of diagnostic tests that are appropriate for specific settings are needed. 

The tests included in this project have been developed through longstanding collaborations from 15 years of studies across Africa and with European, US and several other international groups. The multi-disciplinary team of test developers and clinical scientists are well suited to identify novel technologies towards meeting the End TB milestones. Collaborators on this project will also include the following: