City firm's TB test is a world-beater


Tuberculosis is back with a vengeance, but a new Cambridge company has come up with a world-beating instant test for the disease.

Rapid Biosensor Systems is due to launch the world's first non-invasive TB test this week.

The test is like a breathalyzer and can be used at points of entry such as airports and docks to show conclusively whether or not travellers are carrying the disease.

Until now the only way to test for TB has been via a blood sample, but the new non-invasive test simply involves blowing into a tube. Within moments there is a positive or negative result and no medical expertise needed to understand it.

RBS is a spin-out from Sentec, the Cambridge consultancy company.

The test is the creation of Elaine McCash, who becomes technical director of the new company, and a mystery doctor, who can not be named for professional reasons.

TB has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation. The disease is killing two million people a year and in the fight against it, the WHO says it sees the RBS test as a potent weapon.

The kit is reported to be ideal for use in developing countries and other mass screening situations because it is robust, fast and costs less than 2, compared with current lowest-cost tests at more than 6.

As well as targeting TB, the test will also be useful in detecting any airborne disease, such as pneumonia and 'flu, and may also be used for detecting bugs in water and e-coli in food.

The technology has already won 118,000 in funding from two DTI Smart awards, and is set for further major investment.

Dennis Camilleri, chief executive, says the world market is worth many millions and RBS expects to corner 20 per cent (18 million tests) in TB screening for starters.

The new test will be mass-tested in hospitals in India later this year. The plan is to follow this with licensing agreements among the major healthcare companies, who have already beaten a path to the RBS door.

The test has taken 18 months to develop and is the result of a combination of proven technologies.

RBS is currently based within Sentec and at Babraham.


Sentec Ltd a Xylem Brand

Sentec Ltd