New urine test can detect tuberculosis in HIV-positive people

The sensitive, point-of-care test can lead to prevention of tuberculosis through early diagnosis and treatment

By Katie Willis on September 27, 2018

UAlberta professor Todd Lowary in the Department of Chemistry is a collaborator in the development of the new test.

An innovative urine test can detect tuberculosis in people living with HIV earlier and more quickly than ever before, according to an announcement earlier this week.

Tuberculosis kills millions around the world every year, and is the leading cause of death for people living with HIV. The new urine test, developed in part by University of Alberta researchers, will improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis, providing earlier treatment and improving health outcomes.

“The tests works by using an antibody to detect the presence of a carbohydrate produced by the organism that causes tuberculosis,” explained Todd Lowary, professor in the Department of Chemistry and collaborator on the project. “Point-of-care tests are important as they can be done in areas where the access to health care is low and comparatively unsophisticated.”

Lowary, an expert in carbohydrate synthesis and Raymond Lemieux Professor of Carbohydrate Chemistry, was part of an international team that collaborated on the project, including the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and Fujifilm. The test is called Fujifilm SILVAMP TB LAM.

“Our contribution was to screen the specificity of a selection of possible antibodies against a panel of different carbohydrates to identify the best one antibody,” explained Lowary. “The led to increased sensitivity of the diagnostic.”

The group has issued a call for trial partners, for those who wish to pilot the test in clinical settings. Studies to test the new test’s efficacy with HIV-negative patients, and new antibodies are being developed to enhance the test’s performance.

The research was conducted with support from the Alberta Glycomics Centre and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission of the Faculty of Science, University of Alberta. Dr. Todd Lowary is the Scientific Director of the Canadian Glycomics Network with its administrative offices based at the University of Alberta. 

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