The Italian Almanac

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Italian Science - April 22

A new Italian test for tuberculosis (TB) could be set to replace the traditional method used over the last 110 years. According to a study published in the British medical jounral The Lancet, the Italian blood tests result in far fewer 'false positives' - in which vaccinated people react similarly to people with the disease - and is more accurate than the so-called Mantoux method.

The standard test, invented by French doctor Charles Mantoux at the end of the 19th century, consists in injecting a TB-like agent into the skin and seeing how it reacts. "But this can produce a lot of false positives in the people who have have been inoculated," said Luca Richeldi of Modena University, who conceived the new blood tests along with colleague Leonardo Fabbri. "Furthermore, it has to be done in two distinct stages and that makes it much harder for certain categories of people, like immigrants, to complete the process".

The new Richeldi-Fabbri tests are virtually simultaneous and "give a much higher degree of certainty in detecting the disease," Richeldi said. Some two thirds of the world's population have latent or full-blown TB and the numbers are rising despite a World Health Organization objective of defeating it by 2010.