WHO announces updates to its guidelines on tests for diagnosis of TB infection

WHO has released updated consolidated guidelines and a new operational handbook on tests for the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) infection today. The updated policy includes, for the first-time recommendations on a new class of Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigen-based skin tests (TBSTs) and consolidates all currently existing recommendations for the diagnosis of TB infection, including the traditional tuberculin skin test (TST) and interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs).

“The diagnostic options for people with TB infection are increasing thanks to manufacturer engagement and new research. Ensuring that everyone in need can obtain a rapid and accurate diagnosis of TB infection is of critical importance to prevent and finally eliminate TB” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme.

Testing for TB infection increases the probability that individuals who are considered for TB preventive treatment (TPT) will benefit from such treatment. IGRAs and TBSTs use Mycobacterium tuberculosis specific antigens and represent a significant advancement to TST which has been used for over half a century.

The WHO consolidated guidelines are accompanied by an operational handbook which provides laboratory personnel, clinicians as well as ministries of health and technical partners detailed guidance on how to implement the WHO evidence-based recommendations on TB infection tests. The document describes the WHO recommended tests, test procedures, a model algorithm, and the steps required to scale-up TB infection testing within a health programme.

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