World TB Day – how ZEISS is supporting the fight against tuberculosis

Ten years of the tuberculosis test microscope ZEISS Primo Star iLED



Besides Robert Koch’s 1882 discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogen that causes tuberculosis, ZEISS contributed another substantial technology to the battle against infectious diseases ten years ago: ZEISS Primo Star iLED – the tuberculosis test microscope.

How it all started

World TB Day
World TB Day, falling on March 24th each year, is designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis today remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of nearly one-and-a-half million people each year, mostly in developing countries.

ZEISS Primo Star iLED is the result of cooperation between ZEISS and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND). Through the targeted promotion of diagnostic innovations, the Swiss foundation FIND has set itself the target of combating the spread of dangerous infectious diseases. In 2008, ZEISS introduced Primo Star iLED at the Union Conference in Paris. The microscope was developed specifically for tuberculosis (TB) test applications and based on the powerful routine microscope ZEISS Primo Star. From this moment on, fluorescence microscopy for efficient tuberculosis detection became affordable. ZEISS Primo Star iLED is offered at a particularly favorable price to public health services customers in high burden countries. Initially, 22 countries defined by the WHO as countries with high burden of TB had been on the list to get the favorable price. However, ZEISS extended this list with additional countries to support the global fight against TB. Now more than 80 countries worldwide receive support from ZEISS with special pricing conditions.

“The WHO and other organizations fighting TB are extremely hopeful that a robust and powerful fluorescence microscope will make it possible to improve TB testing, especially in the case of HIV-infected patients”, says Prof. Dr. Dr. Knut Feldmann, President of the “Tuberculosis in the World” Foundation, Medical Director and Head of the Munich Gauting Pneumology Clinic for many years, and Advisor to the WHO and Secretary of the Bacteriology/Immunology Section of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

In 2017, ZEISS was appointed as a preferred supplier for the initiative “STOP TB” aimed at fighting tuberculosis for the second time.

ZEISS has been supporting the fight against tuberculosis for ten years with its tuberculosis test microscope ZEISS Primo Star iLED.

Fast and reliable fluorescence microscopy

ZEISS Primo Star iLED is the flexible solution for tuberculosis test applications with LED fluorescence excitation and transmitted-light brightfield illumination. Its fluorescent excitation causes mycobacteria stained with Auramine-o or Rhodamine to light up greenish yellow in front of a dark background. You use the 40x objective lens of ZEISS Primo Star iLED and detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis up to four times faster than when using brightfield. Using brightfield, you look for mycobacteria stained with Ziehl-Neelsen dye, using a 100x oil immersion objective lens. The microscope allows you to simply switch between the two modes.

In this video tutorial Dr Harald Hoffmann, Head of Institute for Microbiology and Laboratory Diagnostics, Asklepios Kliniken, Munich Gauting, Germany, demonstrates how to stain smear preparations for diagnosis of tuberculosis with fluorescence microscopy and ZEISS Primo Star iLED:


Even though other technologies, such as gene-based tests at the point of care, are available today, microscopy still remains the gold standard in lab diagnostics. The possibility to easily switch between modes saves valuable time. Thanks to the long-life light-emitting diodes, the running costs are reduced. And the microscope can be run on batteries for many hours and therefore needs hardly any electricity.

“ZEISS Primo Star iLED is the much longed-for answer to the most pressing problems faced by tuberculosis in our partner countries”, concludes Hoffmann.

One of the latest developments is so-called digital connectivity service in global health. With ZEISS Primo Star iLED plus the ZEISS camera and imaging software Labscope, you can connect your microscope with a network, create images on your iPad or iPhone and share your findings with your colleagues in the central labs.

More information on the tuberculosis test microscope ZEISS Primo Star iLED

Tags: Light Microscopy

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