Tiny robot could be game-changer in fight against tuberculosis
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The World Health Organization (WHO) calls tuberculosis (TB) drug resistance “a formidable obstacle” to treatment and prevention of a disease that killed 240,000 people in 2016.

In an effort to help eliminate this obstacle, a Brock University research team has created a microscopic robot that can potentially identify drug resistance to TB faster than conventional tests.

The team’s latest technology builds on an earlier version of the microscopic robot — called the three-dimensional DNA nanomachine — and has the potential to determine, within one hour, whether or not TB bacteria contain the genetic mutations that make them resistant to the basic, first-line drugs prescribed to fight TB.

The WHO says resistance occurs mostly because patients don’t adhere to the strict schedule of antibiotics they need to take to get cured. The bacterial cells’ genes change so that the bacteria can survive future exposures to the same antibiotics, which means a second-line treatment is then required.

It takes a while before health-care professionals and patients realize the first-line drugs aren’t working, which is why quick detection of drug resistance is so crucial, says Feng Li, Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

For more information, visit Brock University.

“Once you confirm there is tuberculosis infection, you have to use the diagnosis to guide the therapeutic strategy. Normal infection and drug-resistant strains require two completely different types of strategies.”
Feng Li
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
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