British scientists are working on using a device, originally developed for the ill fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars, to detect tuberculosis in body fluids. Seeing how the current method requires visual identification of the pathogen through a microscope, the gas chromatograph – mass spectrometer may offer a more objective and precise test.
Dr Liz Corbett, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “We urgently need an accurate and cost-effective method of diagnosing TB.
“At the moment, because diagnosis is not accurate, people with TB may have to be seen up to 10 times before they can be started on TB treatment. They may be infectious throughout this period.”
Dr Geraint Morgan from the Open University said that GC-MS could be a more accurate test, and significantly quicker than current methods.
He said: “The bacterium that causes TB has a special coating and it is the pattern of chemicals in this coating that the mass spectrometer will be searching for.”
The argument for using a device built for space use is that it has been miniaturized to the point where it can be used as a mobile test in more isolated places of the world.
More from the BBC…
Beagle’s mass spectrometry page…