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Mycobacteria/Tuberculosis (TB) Testing

Photos of BT Lab

The Microbiology section collaborates with the Division of Public Health (DPH) Tuberculosis Elimination Program and State TB clinics to support testing for identification and drug susceptibility testing of clinical specimens for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the agent responsible for Tuberculosis disease. Federal funding has been provided since the early 90's to assist States in this activity. The section utilizes one of the only biosafety level three (BSL3) laboratories in the State. The section supports a variety of clinical samples to be tested using the gold standard for culturing TB. These sources include:

  • Respiratory (sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage, bronchiolar washing, induced sputum, etc.)
  • Tissue
  • Urine
  • Blood
  • Gastric Lavage

The Delaware Public Health Laboratory (DPHL) works closely with state, regional, and national partners to provide the most advanced testing. This includes use of rapid deoxynucleic acid (DNA) for identification of TB and direct fluorescent microscopy to support reduction in exposure, drug susceptibility for treatment options due to potential drug resistant strains, and whole genome sequencing (WGS) for outbreak surveillance with our national partners. Mycobacteria identified as not being TB are further characterized utilizing targeted genomics to support patient treatment.

The Microbiology section has increased support for the eradication of TB since 2009 when we instituted an interferon gamma release assay (IGRA) for identification of latent TB disease, or individuals infected with TB that do not present with symptoms. This test is performed using whole blood and requires complex laboratory practice through manual enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Samples are batched and tested unless notification of suspected exposures that will prioritize testing timeframes. This has allowed DPH to be effective in reducing the spread of TB in our community.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been around since antiquity and is still one of the deadliest infectious disease in the world today and requires effective communication for future eradication.

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