|Statement of Christine F. Sizemore, Ph.D., Barbara E. Laughon, Ph.D. and Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health on World TB Day, March 24, 2007
On March 24, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). Dr. Koch’s remarkable scientific achievement was the first step toward developing tools to control the disease. We at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledge the accomplishments of researchers, physicians and public health workers who have battled TB throughout history. At the same time, we renew our collective commitment to develop new TB interventions and defeat a scourge that remains one of the greatest threats to human health.
One-third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with Mtb, and 5 to 10 percent of infected people are likely to develop active TB at some point in their lives; for people infected with HIV, the likelihood of developing and dying from TB is much higher. In 2005, an estimated 1.6 million people died of TB, 195,000 of whom were co-infected with HIV. Today, increasingly fueled by the HIV epidemic, TB disproportionately affects young adults in their most productive years, and the deadly synergy between HIV/AIDS and TB has led to an increase in the number of new TB cases throughout the world. In poor and middle-income countries, half of all health care workers — the individuals critical to TB control and treatment efforts — are themselves infected with the TB bacterium.
More and more frequently, TB control programs around the world are faced with multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB that is unresponsive to treatment with a multitude of antibiotics. Cumbersome treatment strategies that have not been optimized for decades, co-infection with HIV, and the lack of rapid, accurate diagnostic tools to expedite appropriate treatment for TB have contributed to the spread of the disease and the emergence of drug resistance, which may set back control programs to the pre-antibiotic era.
The persistence of the TB epidemic underscores the importance of continuing fundamental research to better understand how Mtb interacts with the host and to translate these findings into new health care interventions to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of TB infection and disease.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the lead agency of NIH for TB research, supports more than 300 TB-related research projects around the world, many in collaboration with government and industrial partners. The presence of a robust pipeline of promising TB products is unprecedented: more than a dozen drug and vaccine candidates and approaches are being tested in clinical trials and dozens of new candidates are being evaluated in early development and preclinical studies. Five new diagnostics are being validated in clinical trials, and existing diagnostic platforms are being adapted for use in TB applications, including the detection of XDR-TB.
As more advanced products become available for human testing, NIAID will continue to forge alliances to facilitate a smooth transition of the most promising candidates into clinical trials. At the same time, we reaffirm our commitment to the basic and translational science that will help generate the next generation of candidate TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.
On this World TB Day, let us applaud the efforts of our scientists and partners and commit to greatly expand our collective efforts to fight this most important global health challenge.
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health. Christine F. Sizemore, Ph.D., is chief of the Tuberculosis and other Mycobacterial Diseases Section in the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Barbara E. Laughon, Ph.D., is chief of the Complications and Co-Infections Research Branch of the Therapeutics Research Program in the NIAID Division of AIDS.
For more information, visit Focus on TB at http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/focuson/tb/default.htm.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology, transplantation and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune diseases, asthma and allergies. Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID News and Public Information Branch at 301-402-1663, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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