In Focus

Global collaboration to widen equitable access to Tuberculosis tests


Truenat is a portable, battery-operated, multi-disease, real-time PCR platform with a sample-to-result time of less than an hour

Rapid Molecular Tests are designed to make diagnosis easier and faster for people with signs and symptoms of tuberculosis. But these are not equitably accessible to people. And now a global collaboration seeks to address this problem. 

Three international organizations, the Global Fund, the USAID and the Stop TB Partnership  have announced a new tie-up with Molbio Diagnostics, an Indian company based in Goa,  that significantly expands access to the latter’s Truenat platform. 

What is Truenat?

Truenat is a portable, battery-operated, multi-disease, real-time PCR platform with a sample-to-result time of less than an hour. The platform can test over 40 diseases, including Covid-19, TB, HCV, HBV, HIV, HPV, dengue, malaria, influenza, herpes and typhoid, Molbio said, and it can be deployed at peripheral health facilities.

With the proven ability to work even at Primary Health Centers and with wireless data transfer capability, this technology brings a paradigm shift to the global fight to control and manage devastating infectious diseases.

This collaboration will expand equitable access to quality rapid testing for underserved populations across all countries supported by the Global Fund, USAID and the Stop TB Partnership.

Rapid Molecular Tests

Although rapid molecular tuberculosis (TB) tests are endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the standard of care, less than 40 percent of people in need of TB testing in 2021 had access to a rapid molecular diagnostic test. Major barriers in expanding access to testing include high operating costs, infrastructure challenges and inefficient executions. This significant gap in access to rapid molecular testing for TB and drug resistance stands as one of the largest shortfalls in the global TB response today.

TB toll

As many as day, 4,400 people die from TB daily due to lack of access to testing and treatment resources. According to the WHO Global TB report 2022, an estimated 10.6 million people became ill with tuberculosis in 2021, compared with 10.1 million in 2020, and 1.6 million people died from tuberculosis in 2021. In India, 21.4 lakh TB cases were registered in 2021, 18 percent more than in 2020, the note said.  

The National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme has deployed Truenat in over 3,500 PHCs and CHCs across states. The international collaboration will enable other countries to adopt this Indian technology in their national TB programmes, it said.

Executive Director of the Global Fund Peter Sands said that Molbio Diagnostics played a crucial role in meeting the need for improved diagnostic solutions and technologies. “We look forward to making these TB products more affordable and accessible in the countries where we invest,” he said.

USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Atul Gawande said the USAID is committed to creating a TB-free world, and that starts with expanding access to critical diagnostic testing to reach every person with TB. 

“This new technology will allow countries to expand rapid TB diagnostic testing to more rural, hard-to-reach populations at the primary care level –and at a significantly lower cost than current testing options,” Dr Gawande added.

Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership Dr. Lucica Ditiu said that for the first time ever, we have a rapid molecular test for TB and rifampicin resistance that is less than US$8 per test, more than 20 percent lower than what is currently available on the market. 

“I hope we all feel now even more comfortable saying ‘Yes! We can end TB,’” Dr Ditiu said.

Also Read : Tuberculosis: Overcoming the Ancient Scourge