Why Finding A TB Test Got Hard | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Why Finding A TB Test Got Hard

Hospitals and public health departments around the country are having a tough time coming up with a staple of preventive health care: the skin test for tuberculosis.

The shortage, caused by problems at a factory in Canada, is prompting suspension of routine TB testing around the country.

People often have to get the test, called a PPD test, before enrolling in school, and it's also often required annually for people who work in hospitals, nursing homes, jails and other facilities where exposure to tuberculosis can be a problem.

"We believe we've identified the cause and we're back on track, but it will take a while to catch up," said Len Lavenda, a spokesman for Sanofi Pasteur Limited, manufacturer of the Tubersol PPD test. He told Shots he didn't "know specifically" what led to the production halt at the Toronto plant.

The Tubersol PPD test will be largely unavailable until the end of May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which just published a report on the shortage in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

There's just one other PPD test approved in the United States, and that one, Aplisol, has been increasingly hard to find as health-care providers turn to it because they can't get Tubersol. As a result, the CDC reports, "This might require deferment of testing some persons."

PPD tests work by injecting a fluid containing sterile bits of protein under the skin on a person's forearm. If the person has been infected with the tuberculosis bacillus, the test can cause a raised, hard welt on the arm in two to three days. (MedlinePlus has a good description of the test, and the CDC goes into more detail on who should get tested.)

TB skin tests are cheap ($39 at Minute Clinic) and simple, though they do involve a needle and a trip back to the doctor if the test looks positive. A positive test doesn't mean a person has an active TB infection, but does need followup.

If PPD tests can't be found, the CDC recommends an IGRA blood test. It's a bit more invasive because it requires a blood draw, but can be more accurate, particularly in people who have had a BCD TB test, which is used in other countries.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

After Injury, Tony Little Told Himself: 'You Can Do It!'

The muscle man with the ponytail was once on track to become Mr. America. But a car accident shattered Tony Little's hopes of competing. Just when he hit rock bottom, he got a life-changing idea.
WAMU 88.5

Hops Coming Home: Loudoun County To Add Hop Production Facility

The first commercial-scale hop production and processing facility in the region is being planned out in Loudoun County, further adding to the region's burgeoning beer business.

NPR

Families Feel Sidelined As U.S. Reviews Hostage Policy

The White House is reviewing how it handles hostage crises following the brutal murders of Americans abroad, but families of hostages say they're often left out of the conversation.
NPR

Marine Corps Finds It Tough To Shut Down Sexist Facebook Groups

Female Marines are being humiliated and generally degraded by their peers on Facebook. The groups' pages are frequently shut down, but return within days due to a dedicated following.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.