Gene sequencing for rapid diagnosis of tuberculosis and prompt initiation of correct life saving treatment

British scientists have made a world-first breakthrough in the diagnosis of tuberculosis using gene sequencing. The diagnosis can be made in days instead of months. This will enable the prompt treatment with the correct drugs.

Researchers in Oxford and Birmingham say they can isolate different strains of the disease using a process called genome sequencing.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the breakthrough “will save lives”.

Speedy diagnosis means patients can begin their recovery much quicker and also reduces the chances of the infection being spread.

Consultant microbiologist Dr Grace Smith said: “We’re able to provide information on the species of the organism and the drugs to which it may be resistant if it’s TB.”

Public Health England says it is the first time anyone in the world has applied the technique on such a large scale.

The breakthrough comes after experts warned that a rise in drug-resistant strains of TB was threatening to derail efforts to eradicate the disease.

A new study found one in five global cases of the disease is now resistant to at least one major treatment drug.