A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (Cleveland) reported that its Tuberculosis Research Unit (TBRU) has received a $27 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, to continue its work in tuberculosis (TB) research. The TBRU is the only one of its kind supported by the NIH in the U.S., according to Case. The previous award in 1999 was $28 million over seven years.

The contract will allow researchers to build on a long-standing tradition of multi-disciplinary TB research at the School of Medicine through its international collaborations in Uganda, Brazil, South Africa and the Philippines. The Uganda-Case Research Collaboration (UCRC) with colleagues at Makerere University, Mulago Hospital and the Joint Clinical Research Center (all Kampala, Uganda) will feature prominently in this new contract, Case said. There also will be greatly expanded research activities with investigators at the University of Capetown (Capetown, South Africa) and the South African TB Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) in Capetown. This international consortium of physician and research scientists in two African countries and 10 U.S. research institutions will conduct studies of the genetics, immunology, microbiology and epidemiology of this often-fatal disease in countries where TB is an enormous public health problem, Case noted.

“Renewal of this research program is a wonderful opportunity to bring together new colleagues in the United States, Uganda and South Africa for TB research focused on understanding how the infection is transmitted and why some people go on to develop active disease, whereas most contain the infection. These studies will impact development of new vaccines, diagnostics tests, and treatment for TB,” said W. Henry Boom, MD, principal investigator for the new contract and a Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

TB, a bacterial infectious disease, commonly affects the lungs with one-third of the world’s population currently infected. Though asymptomatic, one in ten of these latent infections will advance to active TB. Active TB, which develops slowly over a period of months, begins with a chronic cough, night sweats, loss of weight and a characteristic cavity in the lung found on a chest X-ray. Left untreated, TB is fatal. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative bacterium, is spread person-to-person by droplets expelled from the lungs by coughing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO; Geneva, Switzerland), those with active TB can infect 10-15 other people a year. The immuno-compromised, particularly those with HIV/AIDS, persons living in crowded living conditions, children exposed to high-risk adults, and healthcare workers serving high-risk patients are at greater risk of becoming infected and developing TB.

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