An Australian scientist will bring effective screening for tuberculosis (TB) a step closer with his latest study in Vietnam- where he now lives and works.
We still don’t know why only one in ten of the two billion people carrying the Mycobacteria tuberculosis bacterium become sick with tuberculosis (TB). But the disease kills more than one million people worldwide every year – three every minute.
Centenary Institute researcher Dr Greg Fox is helping to find out by using a $150,000 grant from an anonymous benefactor to conduct a genetic study of TB patients and their families in Vietnam, a country where 290,000 people have TB and 54,000 die from it every single year.
The role of genes in the risk of contracting TB is thought to be about 30-40 per cent – Greg wants to find out more.
“By studying the genetics of those who live in a country with high rates of TB, we can compare genetic differences between those affected by TB and those who aren’t,” Greg says, “This may one day allow us to screen those with a high likelihood of being exposed to TB.”
Greg has worked with TB patients and their families in Vietnam for the past three years at the National Lung Hospital in Hanoi.
For this project and a range of other projects, Greg is collaborates with the National Lung Hospital in Hanoi and the Pham Ngoc Thac Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City as part of Vietnam’s National Tuberculosis program.
His other research project, which will continue until 2014, is a part of a $1.3m collaboration between Centenary and the Woolcock Institute that set up a controlled trial of active screening of TB patient’s family members in 71 District Clinics in eight provinces across Vietnam.
This experience reminds Greg why he and Centenary have committed to strengthening both treatment and research efforts in the developing world.
“Being in Vietnam, with my wife and young son, I’m constantly reminded about the importance of TB research and establishing partnerships with countries that have high levels of this devastating disease,” he says.
“In Vietnam, tuberculosis most often affects the poor. If we can develop better ways of combatting this disease, then it will make a real difference to those who are least able to afford it.”
“My wife, who is a GP working at an international clinic, and I are grateful that we are in positions to make a difference to such a major health problem.”
Centenary Institute is also conducting a genetic study in China, another country with a high incidence of TB.
Dr Magda Ellis is analysing thousands of genetic samples for the biggest genome-wide study of TB patients ever conducted in Asia, which will complement the work being done in Vietnam.
“TB is a global disease that requires global solutions, “Professor Mathew Vadas, the Director of the Centenary Institute says,
“Greg’s efforts in Vietnam complement our other genetic study in China and of course, our core team here in Sydney working on new drugs and vaccines for TB.”
More at http://www.centenarynews.org.au
Greg is in Sydney for the next few months before returning to Vietnam. For interviews contact:
- Suzie Graham, 0418 683-166, firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Niall Byrne, 0417 131-977, email@example.com
- Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- TB infection attacks the lungs, but can also have an impact on other areas of the body.
- TB is spread when a person with an active pulmonary infection sneezes, coughs, spits or simply speaks. Like the common cold, infectious droplets are sprayed into the air and can be inhaled by people nearby.
- Two billion people carry TB bacteria, with no symptoms—but one in 10 of them will develop active TB. They will become contagious and be at risk of serious illness and death.
Current treatments and efforts
- TB bacteria can usually be treated with a course of four standard antibiotics, known as ‘first line’ drugs, taken over six months or more.
- Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is spreading.
- This takes longer to treat and can only be cured by ‘second-line’ drugs.
- Even tougher forms of TB are starting to appear. There are no effective drugs against these extensively drug-resistant forms of TB (XDR-TB).
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there may be as many as 25,000 cases of XDR-TB. Most cases are fatal.
TB globally and in our region
- Per capita, the global TB incidence rate is falling, but the rate of decline is very slow – less than 1%. There were 9.4 million new TB cases worldwide in 2009.
- 22 countries account for 80% of the tuberculosis cases in the world.
- Vietnam: 29,000 died from TB, 290,000 infected in 2010.
- China: 54,000 died from TB, 1.5 million infected in 2010.
- 500,000 people in South-East Asia died from TB in 2010.
- Bangladesh and Cambodia have the highest prevalence rates of TB in the world outside Africa.
- A third of all new cases are in India and China.
TB in Australia
The incidence of TB in Australia has remained at a stable rate since 1986. A total of 1,135 cases of TB were reported in Australia in 2007, representing a crude rate of 5.4 cases per 100,000 population
In 1960, the rate was closer to 40 per 100,000.
But TB is already expanding its reach into Australia via our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The rate of TB in PNG has increased by 42 per cent in the past decade and is still rising, according to national health data. The WHO estimates about 3600 people in PNG die from TB every year, though uncertainties around surveillance and diagnosis mean the toll may well be higher.
Dr Greg Fox, an Australian medical doctor and PhD student, never thought his TB research would lead him to strap research papers to his back and ride around the Vietnamese countryside on a moped to visit research sites and train local doctors. Greg now lives in Hanoi, working on TB genetics and other risk factors, for Centenary Institute and Woolcock Institute at the National Lung Hospital. More on Greg here: http://bit.ly/wdtBWf
About the Centenary Institute:
The Centenary Institute is an independent leader in medical research seeking improved treatments and cures for cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases.
We are working to discover new prevention, early diagnosis and treatment options to enable each generation to live longer, healthier lives than the one before.
Centenary’s affiliation with the RPA Hospital and the University of Sydney means that our discoveries can be quickly applied to the fight against disease in the clinic. More at: http://www.centenary.org.au/