An experimental urine test that detects and monitors how effective TB (tuberculosis) treatment is has shown promise, researchers reported in Analytical Chemistry. They describe TB as "on the rampage" in parts of the developing world.

Team leaders, Virander Singh Chauhan and Ranjan Kumar Nanda explain that 10 million people develop TB each year, and 3 million die from the disease. The vast majority of them in poorer nations.

TB is currently diagnosed by identifying the bacterium in blood or sputum samples. However, these tests take a long time, in some cases even weeks before results come back. Current tests also require specially trained staff, and costly equipment which is not always readily available.

The authors say there is a new test which will eventually overcome all these drawbacks. The researchers analyzed VOCs (volatile organic compounds) - these are substances that evaporate into the air and are present in TB patients' urine. They compared the VOCs in the TB patients with healthy volunteers.

The authors found that certain VOCs in TB patients produce a distinct pattern which can be identified, similar to the distinct fingerprint patterns that identify individuals.

This advance - being able to identify these patterns - will lead the way for the development of a portable "electronic nose" that can rapidly sniff urine samples to detect TB, the scientists explained.

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