TB-MBLA going global as tool for monitoring tuberculosis (TB) treatment

Monday 29 May 2023

Principal Research Fellow Dr Wilber Sabiiti spent much of March and April this year on the road, educating fellow researchers about a novel tuberculosis (TB) test developed by the School’s Infection and Global Health Research Division in 2018. The TB-MBLA measures the number of TB bacteria in a patient sample in a matter of hours and monitors the effectiveness of medicine in killing the bacteria as treatment progresses. Dr Sabiiti visited Gabon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, the UK, and the Netherlands to train researchers, visit with potential collaborators, and serve as a conference speaker.

TB-MBLA implementation training takes place in Mozambique.

Working with Dr Bariki Mtafya of NIMR-Mbeya Medical Research Centre, Dr Sabiiti first completed TB-MBLA implementation training at three research sites in Gabon, Mozambique and Tanzania. Alongside Malawi, these three countries are part of the OptiRiMoxTB clinical trial, which aims to shorten the course of TB treatment from six to four months using easily accessible existing medicines. The trial is also building the clinical-trial capacity of young research institutions in participating countries.

Dr Sabiiti then travelled to Kampala, Uganda, where he spoke at the Global TB Symposium at Makerere University, highlighting the value of the TB-MBLA for monitoring TB treatment. Present in the audience were members of Stool4TB, an EDCTP-funded project evaluating a stool-based diagnostic platform in Mozambique, Eswatini and Uganda. They were excited by the possibility of applying the TB-MBLA to stool specimens to monitor TB treatment in children and other patients who struggle to produce sputum.

Travelling to London, Dr Sabiiti then spoke on a research and development panel at the Africa-UK Health Summit. His talk focused on tools like the TB-MBLA that provide an accurate prognosis and help clinicians to prescribe appropriate medicine early enough to prevent poor treatment outcomes.

Dr Sabiiti’s final stop was the Netherlands. First, he visited the offices of non-profit organisation the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation in the Hague, where he discussed potential collaborative research opportunities between KNCV and the University of St Andrews. He then attended the UNITE4TB Annual Consortium Meeting in Nijmegen. Funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), UNITE4TB brings together research institutions from across Africa, Asia, Europe, the UK, and North and South America to investigate new TB medicines. The TB-MBLA is one of the two novel tests selected for implementation in the UNITE4TB trials in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

Dr Sabiiti (second from left) discusses potential collaboration opportunities with KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation staff at their offices in the Hague.

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