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At the NanoCity2015 conference held earlier this month in Amersfoort, chemistry PhD student Marta Mourão received an award for her poster 'Can we use Biomarkers in Sputum for Early Diagnosis of Tuberculosis?'. Marta received a certificate and 500 euro.

Marta Mourao receives her poster award
PhD student Marta Mourão. Photo: Bram Saeys, courtesy of NanoCity2015.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s most pressing public health problems, with a global prevalence of 9 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths each year in developing countries. Current methods for identifying the mycobacteria responsible for TB,   Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), are laborious and lack sensitivity.

In her PhD research, supervised by Dr Arend Kolk and Prof. Hans-Gerd Janssen of the Analytical Chemistry Group at the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, Marta Mourão developed a new method for the detection of MTB in sputum from TB patients, resulting in better detection limits (i.e. earlier disease diagnosis) and improved sensitivity and specificity.

Very low levels

At the heart of the new method is a fully automated Gas Chromatography (GC) procedure based on thermally-assisted hydrolysis and methylation (THM-GC-MS). The method was further improved by the addition of an in-series sample pre-treatment, which consists of Liquid Chromatography (LC) analysis with transfer of specific fractions from the LC to the THM-GC-MS. The new set-up, focused only on five biomarkers, was able to detect very low levels of MTB strain 124, between 1x10 4 and 1x10 2 MTB/mL. 

Marta Mourao receives her poster award
Dr Eppo Bruins, director of Technology Foundation STW, presented the award to Marta Mourão. Photo: Bram Saeys, courtesy of NanoCity2015.