Blood test to detect drug-resistant TB

Researchers from Mumbai identify biomarkers that can be useful to draw up a treatment plan

November 06, 2016 10:32 pm | Updated December 02, 2016 01:53 pm IST - CHENNAI:

Mumbai-based researchers have identified two microRNA biomarkers present in serum samples that could potentially be used for TB diagnosis and TB disease prognosis. It could be used both for drug-sensitive pulmonary TB and multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients. The results were published in the journal Tuberculosis .

The use of these biomarkers may expedite the diagnosis of MDR-TB. In India, generally patients are first started on drug-sensitive TB drugs. It is only when they do not show any improvement despite medication even after a couple of months that MDR-TB suspected.

Compared with controls, the microRNA miR-16 level in 30 newly diagnosed drug-sensitive pulmonary TB patients was 5-6 times higher and the miR-155 level was about two times lower.

30 patients studied

Of the 30 patients studied, serum samples collected from 10 patients were tested for the two microRNAs at the time of diagnosis and after the completion of treatment.

“The levels of miR-16 and miR-155 returned to normal level once the patients completed the treatment and were sputum negative,” says Dr. Deepak Modi from the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai and one of the authors of the paper.

The levels of two microRNAs are different in people with MDR-TB compared with drug-sensitive pulmonary TB and healthy individuals.

Serum samples from 19 MDR-TB patients were studied by the researchers. If the miR-16 is elevated 5-6 times in people with drug-sensitive TB, it is two times lower than the normal level in people with MDR-TB. In the case of miR-155 the reduction is only slightly less compared with drug-sensitive TB (it is intermediate between drug-sensitive TB patients and normal level). “We don’t know why the two microRNAs behave differently in MDR-TB patients compared with drug-sensitive TB,” Dr. Modi says.

miR-16 better indicator

“The miR-16 shows better predictive value than miR-155 in both drug-sensitive pulmonary TB and MDR-TB cases,” says Vishal Wagh from the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai and the first author of the paper.

Dr. Modi says, “In patients undergoing TB treatment if the miR-16 level is lower or if the miR-155 level is not increasing then MDR-TB should be suspected.”

“The blood-based TB diagnosis using these biomarkers has great advantages. Even in adults a good number of them are unable to give sputum samples. Children, especially younger children, do not produce sputum samples. So diagnosis of pulmonary TB in these cases is difficult when we rely on sputum samples,” says Dr. Chander Puri, Pro-Vice Chancellor of MGM Institute of Health Science, Mumbai, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers are expanding the study to cover a larger population of drug-sensitive, MDR-TB and extra pulmonary TB patients.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.