Microgenetics attend Prof. Robin Wood lecture

23 October 2018

Yesterday we were lucky to attend a lecture hosted by Bristol Doctoral College given by Professor Robin Wood, a prominent researcher within the field of human tuberculosis (TB).

Professor Wood gave an overview of his previous and current work and highlighting how much of a problem Tuberculosis still causes in parts of the world, particularly in South Africa where he conducts his research just outside of Cape Town in a township called Masiphumelele. He highlighted a frightening statistic in that the rate of TB per 100,000 in the UK, Canada, USA and France combined is still far less than that of the rate of TB per 100,000 within Masiphumelele.

When you look at these statistics at a global level, Tuberculosis results in 10.4 million active cases, leading to 1.7 million deaths per year. Faster and more sensitive diagnosis could help national healthcare systems treat and react to infections faster and thus aid in decreasing the death rate.

One research aspect of Professor Wood’s group was aerobiology of TB bacilli, using a specialised designed chamber termed the Respiratory Aerosol Sampling Chamber (RASC). The RASC offers a small volume chamber that can be easily monitored for temperature, cough frequencies and concentrations of particles within the air. His team were able to test sample outputs, and they were even able to identify what looked like TB bacilli via scanning electron microscopy.

The development of RASC is based on research conducted in the 1950s, resulting in the Wells and Riley equation in predicting infection risk based on shared air. Here, Professor Wood believes that the equation can be further expanded and refined, proving by use of GPS and CO2 monitors that during a typical day, patients can easily stay in areas or rooms with low air exchange incidents, potentially increasing the chance of becoming infected with TB.

Most importantly, Professor Wood highlighted the need for a sensitive and specific diagnostic test, as currently, GeneXpert offers as little as 52% sensitivity, with a slight increase of 8% if a bronchoalveolar lavage is performed, but this requires an invasive procedure that can be difficult to perform on some patients such as children.

The work currently being done within Microgenetics is looking at whether our SwiftDetect technology is capable of detecting low-level Tuberculosis from aerosol samples. Initial studies are showing very positive results.

Infographic showing statistics relating to the human TB crisis