Early Detection of Tuberculosis

The early and accurate detection of Tuberculosis (TB) is an area of critical importance to combat the disease.  Current diagnostic methods (microscopy, tuberculin skin tests, sputum smear culture, etc.) can be labour intensive, expensive, not sufficiently sensitive, and/or ineffective at diagnosing particularly vulnerable immunocompromised patients.  Improving diagnostic methods for TB would allow for earlier treatment and fewer transmissions of the disease.

In our lab group, we are aiming to develop ultra-sensitive single molecule array (Simoa) assays to directly detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) bacterial proteins in human serum.  By directly detecting these proteins rather than the immune response to Mtb bacteria, we hope to create a specific and sensitive diagnostic tool without the need for an intact host immune system; by selecting human serum as a target matrix, we hope this diagnostic could be widely applied due to relatively easy specimen collection.

While informative pathologic TB biomarkers have been identified, they have been largely undetectable in human serum using conventional methods due to their low abundance.  We are hopeful that implementing the highly sensitive Simoa technology developed in the Walt Lab (50-1000x more sensitivity than ELISA assays) will allow for the detection of these proteins, in turn providing insights into their potential applications in a blood-based TB diagnostic.