The new GeneXpert machine just installed in Tomsk, Russia cuts the time needed to test people for tuberculosis (TB) from weeks to just two hours. In a region with an especially high rate of TB, the system enables medical providers to identify and treat TB and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) early and fast. This in turn improves patients' quality of life and curbs the spread of disease.
The launching of the new rapid TB detection system was a joint effort of Russia’s Tomsk regional tuberculosis services and Partners In Health.
"Without a GeneXpert, it takes 1 day to read the smear sputum and up to 3 months to do a conventional drug susceptibility test on a solid culture", says Alex Golubkov, PIH Medical Director for Russia and Kazakhstan. "With the GeneXpert it should take two hours to determine if the sample is positive for MBT (micro bacteria tuberculosis) and identify Rifampicin resistance [the key indicator in diagnosing multidrug-resistant TB]."
While the speed of these new tests will still be dependent on the patient’s distance from the laboratory and any potential backups once there, it is a significant improvement -- one that will reshape the face of TB care in the Siberian region.
In addition, the GeneXpert is better able to detect TB in sputum samples from people living with HIV/AIDS. Microscope tests on samples from patient's suffering from complex medical conditions are often difficult to read. The new machine reads samples at the molecular level, sidestepping the limitations of the human eye.
The two machines in Tomsk, Russia are now up and running – one in the civilian TB service and another one in the penitentiary institution for TB treatment. Roughly 1,300 new TB patients will be diagnosed in this Siberian region in 2012. 300 of those people will be prisoners.