Stellenbosch University coordinates new €3 million project to make testing for active tuberculosis (TB) easier

According to the WHO, 1.5 million people were killed by TB in 2014. It now ranks alongside HIV as a leading cause of death worldwide and particularly places severe pressure on health care services of the developing world. The high burden of undiagnosed TB fuels on-going transmission and poor treatment outcomes. In response to this major health issue the new project, ScreenTB, sets out to accelerate the development of a fast and safe way to screen people for active TB.

ScreenTB is the follow-up project to the successful EDCTP-initiative, the African European Tuberculosis Consortium (AE-TBC), which ran from 2010 to 2013 and already addressed this problem and that resulted in the discovery of a promising diagnostic biosignature. Coordinated by Prof. Gerhard Walzl from Stellenbosch University/South Africa, the ScreenTB consortium will validate this diagnostic test and comprises a multi-national team of leading experts from eight African and European partnering institutions and is equipped with a total budget of €3 million over the next three years. The project officially kicked off its activities with a meeting at Stellenbosch University, South Africa from 2 to 3 May 2016.

ScreenTB: a fast and safe way to screen for active TB

ScreenTB addresses the important topic of screening for active TB. “Our major goal is to evaluate a point-of-care, hand-held, rapid screening test for TB, conducted on finger-prick blood in a laboratory-free manner. Such a screening test has the potential to significantly speed up and streamline TB diagnostic approaches in resource-limited settings. Primary health care workers would use the test at health post level with immediate access to the screening test results”, coordinator Prof. Walzl explains.

The consortium plans to run a trial that will recruit 800 people with symptoms suggestive of active TB, and across five African countries. Additionally, they will continue to build significant African clinical trial capacity by hosting workshops on clinical trial and laboratory procedures and by supporting the promising early and mid-career African scientists through a mentorship program and by improving South-South and South-North networking.

The patented work on which the project is based was published in Thorax  on the 04 May 2016 (Chegou NN et al, Diagnostic Performance of a Seven-marker Serum Protein Biosignature for the Diagnosis of Active TB Disease in African Primary Health Care Clinic Attendees with Signs and Symptoms Suggestive of TB.  Thorax Published Online First:[04 May 2016] doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-207999

The partners in ScreenTB at a glance:

Africa

  • Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Medical Research Council, The Gambia
  • Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia
  • Makerere University, Uganda
  • University of Namibia, Namibia

Europe

  • Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands
  • The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
  • European Research and Project Office GmbH, Germany

About the EDCTP

The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is a public-public partnership between 14 sub-Saharan African and 14 European countries and the European Union. It aims to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbicides and diagnostics against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as well as other poverty-related and neglected infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on phase II and III clinical trials.