TB screening is missing the majority of cases
Research has found that the current Tuberculosis (TB) screening process – which involves chest x-rays – fails to detect up to 70 per cent of cases of the infection in immigrants arriving in the UK.
It is thought that blood tests would be a more effective screening method, being able to detect 90 per cent of cases of TB.
Blood tests will be able to identify latent infections – those which are present but are inactive in the body – whereas chest x-rays can only detect active infections.
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The researchers from Imperial College London said that if dormant cases of TB are found, carriers would be able to take a course of antibiotics to prevent them developing an active form of the disease.
TB is a bacterial infection which normally stays asymptomatic in the body, meaning that it is inactive and there are no symptoms. When the disease becomes active it attacks the lungs and approximately half of sufferers die from it.
The new findings back up guidelines which were updated in March by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) on TB screening.
In Britain incidents of TB have risen dramatically in recent years and the researchers believe that this is due to a 98 per cent increase in cases of TB in people who move to Britain from overseas.
Current legislation requires the testing of all immigrants from countries which have a TB incidence higher than 40 in every 100,000 people per year.
The researchers said that when entering the country, the majority of immigrants have an inactive form of the disease, which then progresses in to the full-blown form of the illness a few years after their arrival.
Professor Ajit Lalvani, the director of TB research at Imperial College London, said: “By treating people at that early stage, we can prevent them from developing a serious illness and becoming infectious.”
“Crucially, this wider screening could substantially reduce TB incidence while remaining cost-effective. Our findings provide the missing evidence-base for the new national strategy to expand immigrant screening.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: “Tuberculosis is a global problem and sustained action is needed to detect, diagnose and treat cases earlier. We are funding TB Alert, the UK's national TB charity, to increase awareness of TB among primary healthcare professionals and the public.”
“We are pleased that this research backs up the latest NICE guidance on TB screening. We expect the local NHS to consider the best ways of tackling this issue in their area.”
NHS opens 8 clinical trial sites to assess cancer treatment
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is opening eight clinical trial sites to assess patients' responses to personalised cancer therapy.
The trials will analyse how patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma or non-small cell lung cancer respond to immunotherapy, to help predict their response to treatment. They will be hosted at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust facilities.
Immunotherapy helps the body's own immune system fight cancer, but while it has achieved good results for some cancer patients, it is not successful for everyone. Finding ways to predict which people will respond to the treatment is a major area of research.
OncoHost, an oncology startup, will provide advanced machine learning technology to develop personalised strategies aiming to improve the success rate of the cancer therapy. The trials will contribute to OncoHost’s ongoing PROPHETIC study, which uses the company’s host response profiling platform, PROphet®.
“Immunotherapy has achieved excellent results in certain situations for several cancers, allowing patients to achieve longer control of their cancer with maintained quality of life and longer survival,” said Dr David Farrugia, Consultant Medical Oncologist at NHS, and chief investigator of all eight NHS clinical trial sites.
“However, success with immunotherapy is not guaranteed in every patient, so this PROPHETIC study is seeking to identify changes in proteins circulating in the blood which may help doctors to choose the best treatment for each patient."
"I am excited that Gloucestershire Oncology Centre and its research department have this opportunity to contribute to this growing field of research and I am determined that our centre will make a leading national contribution in patient recruitment.”
Previous studies in the US and Israel have shown that PROphet® has high accuracy in predicting how patients with cancer will respond to various therapies.