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Ending the TB Epidemic

ACTION: New Technology Saves Lives

The most commonly used tool to diagnose TB, sputum smear microscopy, was developed in 1882 and predates the automobile. Every year sputum smear microscopy fails to detect TB in 1.8 million people, especially women, children, and people living with HIV. But in 2010 the World Health Organization endorsed a new TB diagnostic, Xpert MTB/RIF (commonly referred to as GeneXpert or Xpert). Instead of days or weeks, Xpert is able to diagnose TB in less than two hours and can detect resistance to rifampicin, identifying possible cases of MDR-TB. Because it’s more sensitive than smear microscopy, Xpert is able to detect cases often missed by the old diagnostic. The film tells the story of Xpert through Piara, a garments worker in Bangladesh. Even though she was sick with TB, the standard diagnostic was unable to correctly diagnose her. This happens all too frequently. But Piara was lucky – the health clinic she visited had Xpert, which was gave her a correct diagnosis. Instead of waiting days or weeks for results, Piara was started on treatment that very day. Xpert has transformed the patient experience. By diagnosing patients weeks earlier, Xpert allows patients to receive treatment earlier so they are no longer infectious and are less likely to spread the disease in their communities. This new technology is not just changing lives – it’s saving lives.