Optical TB Diagnostics

According to the World Health Organization’s Global Tuberculosis Report, an estimated 8.7 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases and 1.4 million TB deaths occurred in 2011, mostly in developing countries. With drug resistance spreading and nearly one third of the world’s population harboring asymptomatic infections, TB has the potential to become a global health crisis. Tuberculosis is a challenging disease to manage because it is slow and costly to diagnose and takes several months of strict drug regimens to treat. In developing countries, the task of diagnosing TB falls primarily on microscopy clinics that are often underfunded and lack proper quality assurance and safety precautions. This results in inconsistent test results, poor sensitivity, and a general lack of access.

Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, with the help of the Global Good program, has undertaken a project to improve the quality of TB diagnostics in developing countries. When dealing with sputum, the standard clinical sample for TB diagnostics, sample preparation is consistently a significant challenge. Our team of engineers and chemists are working to develop a novel method for concentrating and capturing bacteria from sputum that provides high sensitivity and a greatly simplified user-experience for lab technicians. Our team has also developed novel optical detection methods for automated identification of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB.

With our set of novel methods and help from TB experts around the world, IV Lab is creating a TB diagnostic that is more sensitive, consistent, and easier to use than microscopy, while having all the key attributes necessary to be compatible with developing world health systems.

Wilson BK and Vigil GD, “Automated bacterial identification by angle resolved dark-field imaging”, Biomedical Optics Express, Vol. 4, Iss. 9, pp. 1692–1701 (2013

Subscribe and Follow