Cheadle MP joins call for government to introduce effective diagnosistic testing for TB

February 28, 2006 4:33 PM

Testing is the key to combat TB

Cheadle MP Mark Hunter has pledged his support to Early Day Motion (EDM) 1346 entitled 'Tuberculosis Testing', which calls upon the Department of Health and NICE to review current tuberculosis (TB) testing policy and promote greater adoption of a revolutionary new blood test for TB diagnosis.

Mark Hunter adds his signature to the EDM as TB rates in the UK continue to rise.1 400 people die each year from TB disease in the UK, approximately the same number of those who die of AIDS related diseases.1 Latest statistics reveal the number of recorded cases of the disease in the UK has risen by 33% in the last decade, affecting around 7,000 people each year.

TB is often perceived as a disease of the past, reflected in the diagnostic tools currently used. The 115-year-old Mantoux skin test, the oldest diagnostic tool still in use today, has recently been introduced as the standard method for diagnosing latent TB in the UK. Latent TB may affect up to four million people, and although it has no symptoms and is not infectious, it has the potential to develop into TB disease at any time.

Mark Hunter MP says, "Over a year ago the Department of Health announced their TB Action Plan, which set out new measures to tackle and ultimately eliminate tuberculosis, stating that accurate diagnosis through the use of modern laboratory techniques was essential.3 However, by bringing back the Mantoux skin test they are essentially acting directly against the claims they make in their own Plan.

Mark Hunter continues, "In line with the current mismatch between words and actions, I am joining the call for the Government to introduce the latest diagnostic tool for latent TB as a matter of urgency, the new T-SPOT blood test. This blood test has been shown to have significant advantages over the tuberculin skin test, including superior accuracy,4,5 convenience and reliability. Crucially, it is the first test that reliably detects infection in people with weak immune systems."

The T-SPOT blood test was licensed in the UK and Europe in July 2004. However, the test is currently only available privately and through a handful of NHS hospitals who serve a fraction of the population.



Early Day Motion 1346

Early Day Motion 1346 is titled 'Tuberculosis Testing' and was tabled by Dr Ian Gibson MP on 11 January 2006. To date, it has received the support of over 60 MPs throughout the UK:

"That this House notes with concern that the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in the United Kingdom has risen by 33 per cent.; further notes that the tuberculin skin test for latent TB infection was developed 115 years ago and is inaccurate in up to 50 per cent of cases; observes that the new T-SPOT blood test for TB delivers a 96.3 per cent sensitivity rate, reducing missed TB cases, morbidity and higher costs of treating subsequent disease; further observes that the T-SPOT blood test requires only one visit to hospital, avoiding gaps in detection and treatment as a result of up to one-third of patients failing to attend the second visit required for skin testing; further notes that the Government's 2004 TB Action Plan identifies accurate diagnosis using technological advances as one of the key priorities for the control of TB; further observes that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) appears in its draft guidance on TB testing to have reflected neither the potential savings of £7,000 for every additional case of TB averted through use of the blood test, nor the improved quality of life of patients; further observes that the alternative Mantoux skin test being considered would require substantial retraining of healthcare personnel and is unlicensed for use in the United Kingdom; and calls upon the Department of Health and NICE to review current testing policy and promote greater adoption of the T-SPOT blood test as the most effective procedure."

The TB Action Plan

'Stopping Tuberculosis in England: An Action Plan from the Chief Medical Officer' for England and Wales was launched on 7 October 2004 and aims to 'ensure TB control has an appropriately skilled work-force and that physicians and nurses with expertise in TB continue to be recruited, trained and retained. Further information available at



2. Tuberculosis Factsheet: NHS Immunisation Information. 2005.

3. Department of Health. Stopping Tuberculosis in England: An Action Plan from the Chief Medical Officer, 7 October 2004

4. Liebeschuetz S, Bamber S, Ewer K, Deeks J, Pathan AA, Lalvani A. Diagnosis of tuberculosis in South African children with a T cell-based assay: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet 2004;364:2196-203

5. Lalvani A. Spotting latent infection: the path to better tuberculosis control. Thorax 2003;58:916-8

6. Richeldi L, Ewer K, Losi M, Hansell DM, Roversi P, Fabbri LM et al. Early Diagnosis of Subclinical Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis. Annals Int Med 2004;140:709-13

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