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Biomarkers for tuberculosis disease status and diagnosis

Doherty, Marka; Wallis, Robert Sb; Zumla, Alimuddinc WHO–Tropical Disease Research/European Commission joint expert consultation group

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: May 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 3 - p 181–187
doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e328326f42c
Infectious diseases: Edited by Alimuddin Zumla

Purpose of review Every year, over 8 million people develop tuberculosis and nearly 1.8 million die from it, despite extensive vaccination and drug treatment programmes. It is increasingly recognized that the diagnosis of tuberculosis, which relies heavily on century-old techniques, is one of the weakest links in the chain of tuberculosis control, hampering not just treatment but also the development of new drugs and vaccines. As a result, recent years have seen the initiation of large-scale studies aiming to identify biomarkers of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection and disease. This review discusses initial results and future prospects for that work.

Recent findings The key finding from recent work has been that no one factor seems able to explain the complex course of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Multifactorial analyses have identified a variety of genes and proteins, mostly involved in bacterial persistence or host responses, that offer promise as biomarkers for different disease stages.

Summary The challenge now is to validate the suggested biomarkers being described and then reduce them to clinical practice. If this can be done, it offers the possibility of greatly improved clinical management of tuberculosis, allowing segregation of patients and contacts into appropriate treatment regimens.

aStatens Serum Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark

bPfizer, New London, Connecticut, USA

cUniversity College London Medical School, London, UK

* Hanna Akuffo, Abraham Aseffa, Nigel Klein, Hannu Laang, Camille Locht, Denny Mitchison, Paranji Narayanan, Andrew Nunn, Ole Olessen, Phillip Onyebujoh, Tom Ottenhoff, Shreemanta Parida, Mahnaz Vahedi, and Dick van Soollingen

Correspondence to Professor T. Mark Doherty, Department of Infectious Disease Immunology, Statens Serum Institute, Artillerivej 5, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark Tel: +45 32 68 38 44; fax: +45 32 68 30 35; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.