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An instrument that can screen for tuberculosis within minutes


Narrator:        This is Science Today. An instrument originally developed for Homeland Security to detect biological pathogens has public health potential to rapidly screen people for tuberculosis. Kristl Adams, of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says they're using a system called Single-Particle Aerosol Mass Spectrometry, or SPAMS.

Adams:           Ideally, we would like to be able to have a person either cough or breathe into the instrument and then detect the biologicals that are coming out of their lungs to be able to say — "do they have tuberculosis? Do they have SARS? Do they have other kinds of infectious diseases?"

Narrator:        The "gold standard" diagnostic tool for tuberculosis is culturing samples, which can take days, even weeks.

Adams:           We're seeing it as a screening tool where you could have somebody come in a breathe into the instrument or take a sample of their sputum and re-aerosolize it into the instrument and be able to tell whether or not they should go for these further tests. But you could do this within minutes, rule out the majority of people who don't have tuberculosis and then you can do further testing on those that might have it.