GeneXpert Technology: A Potential Game Changer for TB Control
"Diagnosing TB early in children in households where adults have TB can make the the difference between life and death," says Dr. Rinn Song. A CHC TB patient with her 8 year old daughter is shown on a CHC home visit.

In a recently completed first-of-its-kind pediatric diagnostic study of tuberculosis in Cambodia, the Cambodian Health Committee (CHC) validated promising new diagnostic tools and measured the burden of TB among children in rural Cambodia.

“This was one of the first studies in the world to use GeneXpert technology in children,” says Dr. Rinn Song, CHC pediatric clinical advisor. “We see this technology as a game changer for TB control around the world as it can accurately diagnose the disease in less than two hours using various specimens. This was also the first pediatric study to assess an ELISA technology using urine samples.”

Tuberculosis is one of the leading preventable causes of illness and death among children in limited-resource countries. Each year at least one million children develop the disease and up to 500,000 lives are lost. Survival rates and quality of life dramatically increase with early detection and treatment.

This project was one of the largest pediatric diagnostic studies completed to date and a first for South-East Asia. More than 2,600 children were screened in SvayRieng Province and 829 were enrolled in the study. The CHC team visited more than 900 homes of patients with TB in remote areas to locate infected children.

“More than 15 percent of children in these areas had the disease,” Dr. Song says. “This is a very high burden for an extremely vulnerable population.”

The study also showed that GeneXpert technology can be used on gastric aspirates, one of the most common specimens used for pediatric TB diagnosis around the world. Results of the study were presented this past October at a WHO/CDC symposium at the International TB Conference in France.

“The findings will have a strong impact for pediatric TB control worldwide and will also provide important information for the Ministry of Health in Cambodia to address the neglected needs of children with TB,” says Dr. Anne Goldfeld, CHC president and co-founder.

The study was financed by the AERAS Global TB Vaccine Foundation, with additional support by the Annenberg Foundation, the Potts Foundation, Cepheid and FIND.

Dr. Rinn Song, pediatric Research Advisor to CHC/GHC presenting the results of the study in Lille, France in October 2011 at the 43rd Union World Conference on Lung Health