Searching for tuberculosis ‘super-spreaders’ by sampling breathed air

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In Masiphumelele, an informal settlement of tin shacks, squat brick buildings, and narrow lanes south of Cape Town, 23,000 people go to school, run businesses, sleep, and socialize cheek by jowl. As a result, communicable diseases are rife—especially tuberculosis (TB), which infects around 80 percent of residents by the time they reach adulthood.

A new research facility opened here [in March] aims to curb TB by studying how it is transmitted in the local community. The R10 million ($700,000 USD) Aerobiology TB Research Facility will allow microbiologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT) to study Mycobacterium tuberculosis captured from the exhaled air of local TB patients.

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TB patients will enter into a “clean box” about the size of a phone booth and spend some time in there. The air in the box—about 300 liters—will be vacuumed up and run through sterile water, locking any particulate matter including bacteria in a 5-milliliter tube. Scientists will then scour the samples for TB bugs.


[I]n time, the scientists hope to scale it up into a high-throughput diagnostic tool to help identify so-called “super-spreaders” in the community.

Read full, original post: Lab in South African “Township” to Sample TB from Breathed Air

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