Posts Tagged ‘Tuberculosis Research Unit’

Global Emergency – A Conversation with Henry Boom

April 26, 2010
Global Emergency :: Conversation with Dr Henry Boom about TB
Q: What is TB and how does it spread?
A: TB is a bacterial infectious disease that has long plagued humans— it commonly affects the lungs and if untreated, is fatal. One-third of the world’s population, about two billion individuals, is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes the disease, although only one in ten of these latent infections will advance to an active case of TB. It is spread person-to-person by droplets expelled from the lungs by coughing, sneezing, or speaking.

Q: Why is it viewed as a disease of poverty?
A: The threat of TB is greater in the world’s poorest communities because crowded and substandard living conditions increase the risk of contagious infection. In addition, there are often inadequate health systems, limiting access to care, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

Q: Individuals with HIV/AIDS are also at greater risk. Why?
A: Because TB is an opportunistic infection, HIV/AIDS patients with weakened immune systems are more susceptible. In fact, TB is the leading infectious killer of people with HIV/AIDS—and so while they are two diseases, they can often attack as if they were one.

Q: If one in three people carry the disease, why do only some develop an active case of TB?
A: Trying to understand the immune response to TB is a primary focus of our research. Other matters we are examining include better understanding of how the infection is transmitted, why the TB vaccine that is used worldwide to protect newborn and very young children is ineffective in prevention for adolescents and adults, and why there are different rates of patient response to drug treatment of the disease.

Q: Why is a disease that was once deemed conquered on the rise again?
A: Each year there are nearly nine million new TB cases and two million deaths worldwide. While 80% of the cases occur in only 22 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, it is still a global emergency. The two major factors contributing to the growing incidence of the disease are the surge of drug-resistant strains of TB and its deadly synergy with the AIDS/HIV epidemic.

Q: Is the ultimate goal of TB research to find new vaccines?
A: The world certainly needs new vaccines to combat the problem of TB—and during the last 20 years, great progress has been made in areas essential for new vaccine development, including important work here at Case Western Reserve. In the nearer term, we must discover better screening methods to identify patients in the earlier stages of disease, treatment regimens that are more effective and easier to complete than current options, and drug combinations that treat TB without negatively affecting HIV treatment.

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Posted via email from CWRUmedicine’s blog