TB diagnostic tool development and access remain first obstacles to finding and treating tuberculosis where it poses greatest threats

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In the obstacle course that detecting, treating and curing tuberculosis can present to populations most affected by the disease, the first hurdle, caused by gaps in technology appropriate to realities where the disease flourishes, remains diagnosis. In turn, obstacles to developing diagnostic tools and getting them on the ground, include lack of resources to test and market promising technologies.

UNITAIDTBDX2015A newly released report examines the potential of TB diagnostic tools in development, the journey ahead before they reach the people who need them, contributions and challenges among currently used tools, and the impacts of progress and setbacks. The release of the 2015 Tuberculosis Diagnostics Technology and Market Landscape from UNITAID, an international organization promoting innovation to meet global health needs, is accompanied by the release of TB Diagnostics Market in Select High-Burden Countries: Current Market and Future Opportunities for Novel Diagnostics, a look at promising venues for TB technologies in Brazil, China, India and South Africa, four countries home to nearly half of all new tuberculosis patients worldwide.

Of the estimated 9 million people who became sick with tuberculosis in 2013, about a third went undiagnosed, and as a result untreated, the fourth annual edition of UNITAID’s TB diagnostics report notes. At the same time an accurate assessment of the scope of childhood tuberculosis remains elusive, with conventional TB testing inadequate to diagnosing the disease reliably in children and estimates likely falling short. In addition, more than two-thirds of an estimated nearly half million people who became sick with tuberculosis resistant to multiple standard treatments went undiagnosed, the report notes. The latter represents progress over the last six years, however, (in 2009 the number diagnosed with multidrug resistant tuberculosis was a fraction of what it is today) and that progress is largely attributable to the development and increasing access to molecular tests that return quick results. Costs and health system deficits continue to hobble maximal use of those tests, which do not meet the needs of all settings in any case, the report notes. The report reviews the impact of Xpert® a molecular test that rapidly diagnoses tuberculosis and drug-resistance, while also highlighting needs for new technologies, and examining the challenges to their development.

SelectHiBurdenCtriesTB Diagnostics Market in Select High-Burden Countries: Current Market and Future Opportunities for Novel Diagnostics, produced by FIND, McGill International TB Centre in Montreal, and UNITAID, highlights the development opportunities that four countries with growing economies and with some of the highest tuberculosis burdens present. Analyzing the specific markets of each country — China used the greatest number of tuberculosis diagnostic tests between 2012 and 2013, while India saw more tests  used in private sector health settings than other countries where TB diagnosis takes place primarily in public health settings — the report finds the common ground in all four is a commitment to fighting the disease. Diagnostic tools that meet the needs found in those countries the report notes, would find “significant opportunities” of making their way to market.

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