Researchers have found a new way to screen people for tuberculosis by identifying proteins released as diseased lungs break down.

TB bacteria typically attack the lungs, and the damage they do causes transmission of the disease to others and can lead to the death of the patient. About one and a half million people die of tuberculosis each year.

Researchers from Britain's University of Southampton, led by Paul Elkington, found increased amounts of collagen and elastin — key proteins in the lungs — in TB patients' sputum and blood. Elkington says these markers of the disease may help in the development of new diagnostic tests and treatments.
"This may permit population screening to find and treat highly infectious individuals to break the cycle of transmission, especially in developing world countries where TB is most prominent," he said.

His team is now studying all the lung fragments released as the disease progresses, hoping to develop new tests that can be performed at the patient's bedside.