The Optical TB Diagnostics team is devolving new tuberculosis diagnostic technologies that are more sensitive, consistent, and accessible.

According to the World Health Organization’s Global Tuberculosis Report, an estimated 8.6 million people developed tuberculosis (TB) and 1.3 million died from the disease in 2012, mostly in developing countries. With drug resistance spreading and nearly one third of the world’s population harboring asymptomatic infections, TB has the potential to become a global health crisis. Tuberculosis is a challenging disease to manage because it is slow and costly to diagnose and takes several months of strict drug regimens to treat. In developing countries, the task of diagnosing TB falls primarily on microscopy clinics that are often underfunded and lack proper quality assurance and safety precautions, causing inconsistent test results, poor sensitivity, and a general lack of access.

Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, in partnership with IV’s Global Good program, has undertaken several efforts to improve the quality of TB diagnostics in developing countries. Sample preparation for sputum, the standard clinical sample for TB diagnostics, is a significant challenge for diagnosis. Our team of engineers and chemists are working to develop novel methods for concentrating and capturing bacteria from sputum that provide high sensitivity and a simplified user-experience for lab technicians.

Our team is also developing novel optical detection methods for automated identification of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB. Some of our other efforts include developing microscope stains for identifying drug resistance, faster methods of bacterial culture, and research into new TB biomarkers.

With the help of TB experts from around the world IV Lab is working to develop new TB diagnostic technologies compatible with developing world health systems that are faster, and more sensitive, consistent, and accessible.


Wilson, Benjamin K. and Vigil, Genevieve D. “Automated bacterial identification by angle resolved dark-field imaging”, Biomedical Optics Express Vol. 4, Iss. 9, (2014): pp. 1692–1701

Tuberculosis Affects the World

Tuberculosis is stronger and more prevalent than ever.


An estimated 8.6 million people developed tuberculosis (TB) in 2012.


More than 1.3 million people died from TB in 2012.

of the world

Nearly one third of the world’s population harbors asymptomatic infections.

Published TB diagnostic research.

Automated Bacterial Identification
Fig. 5 (a) Principal components score plot for two samples each of normally prepared and membrane stripped P. aeruginosa. (b, c) Micrographs of Gram stained P. aeruginosa without (b) and with (c) membrane stripped.

Automated Bacterial Identification by Angle Resolved Dark-field Imaging

ABSTRACT: We propose and demonstrate a dark-field imaging technique capable of automated identification of individual bacteria. An 87-channel multispectral system capable of angular and spectral resolution was used to measure the scattering spectrum of various bacteria in culture smears. Spectra were compared between various species and between various preparations of the same species. A 15-channel system was then used to prove the viability of bacterial identification with a relatively simple microscope system. A simple classifier was able to identify four of six bacterial species with greater than 90% accuracy in bacteria-by-bacteria testing.

Learn More

Biology + Chemistry

The Biology and Chemistry Lab combines a pair of active wet laboratories with experienced biologists and chemists.

Global Good

Malaria Diagnostics

IV Lab is developing new malaria diagnostic techniques in support of elimination and eventual eradication of malaria.


The Photonics Lab leverages a combination of world-class tools and diverse optical expertise.

Institute for Disease Modeling

Passive Vaccine Storage Device

Our passive vaccine storage device keeps vaccines cold for a month or more to extend vaccination services in developing countries.

Related Reading