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. Building better diagnostic tests is crucial for stopping tuberculosis, which kills over 1 million people each year.
In our lab group, we are engaging on all fronts, developing ultrasensitive assays to detect bacterial and human biomarkers for disease in blood and urine. These biomarkers include lipoarabinomannan (LAM), TB proteins, cytokines, antibodies, immune complexes, and small molecules. By directly detecting these proteins rather than the immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (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 or urine as a target matrix, we hope this diagnostic can 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.