New TB Diagnostic Machine Could Prove Game Changer

Cambodia has received a new rapid diagnosis machine for tuberculosis and plans to purchase more in an attempt to stop the spread of the often-untreated disease, health officials said yesterday.

The Xpert, developed by the US medical technology company Cepheid, diagnoses and identifies drug-resistant tuberculosis based on DNA in between 20 minutes and two hours. Most tests currently take over a month.

According to Mao Tan Eng, director of the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, which is housing a machine loaned by Cepheid to the Cambodian Health Committee in October, the new technology could fundamentally change how tuberculosis is treated in Cambodia.

“A better means of diagnosis means we can provide faster and better treatment,” said Dr Eng yesterday.

Dr Eng said that, despite the hefty $17,000 price tag for the machine, the government was planning on purchasing three in addition to the one currently on loan. Two of the machines, which Mr Eng said were now being ordered, will be placed in large provincial hospitals, and the third is to be kept at the NCTLC.

“Our plan is to introduce the machines eventually into many re­ferral hospitals, but now we only can buy three with our resources,” said Dr Eng.

The World Health Organization has ranked Cambodia among the top 22 countries affected by tuberculosis worldwide.

Cepheid loaned one of the machines to CHC because of the country’s high prevalence rate and lack of resources, said Wayne Wilson, coordinator of a CHC pediatric tuberculosis prevalence and diagnostic study that will use the machine to examine children from Svay Rieng province, an area of high infection.

“This is now probably the premier pediatric diagnostic study in the world,” said Mr Wilson, ad­ding that similar studies had been hampered in the past by the difficulty of obtaining definitive diagnoses based on previous tests.

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