News / Health

Gates Foundation Continues to Fight Tuberculosis

X-rays from a tuberculosis patient at A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Florida, Dec. 2009 (file photo).
X-rays from a tuberculosis patient at A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Florida, Dec. 2009 (file photo).

Multimedia

Audio
— By Abigail Martin

Tuberculosis, or TB, is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, dispersing the germ—mycobacterium TB—into the air. The World Health Organization says there were an estimated 8.7 million new cases of TB in 2011. Nearly all TB cases are found in low and middle income countries. People infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, are especially vulnerable because of their weakened immune systems.


TB is a difficult disease to treat because some strains of the bacterium have developed a resistance to drugs. But Dr. Peter Small, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is impressed by recent research developments.
 
“There were probably forty years in which there was very little, arguably no, progress because there was no effort,” he explained. “What we’ve seen in the last decade is an acceleration. And it’s really changed what was a vicious cycle of neglect and despondency into one in which we’re starting to see exciting new products. We have now, for the first time, the capacity for untrained healthcare workers to definitively diagnose TB within two hours and know if it’s drug resistant. More than two and a half million of those tests run in the world.”
 
Small is the Gates Foundation’s senior program officer for TB. He has researched the genetic variability of the disease and has seen the effects of TB firsthand while living in India.
 
He says it’s important to determine which drug combinations provide the best treatment. Small says streamlining approval of effective drug regimens allows those who are infected to receive treatment sooner. But drugs are not the ultimate solution when addressing TB.
 
“I think the Holy Grail remains a vaccine,” Small said. “We do need a vaccine to finish the job. The great thing is that we’ve completed a phase three trial. We’ve shown that we can get definitive answers and unfortunately that trial was ineffective. But I think that the vaccine pipeline is now something which we know we can test. The good news is, in the last fifteen years there have been massive improvements in understanding immunology.”
 
As the world awaits a vaccine, research continues on new drugs that could be effective against multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant types of TB.
 
Small explained, “These are agents that attack bugs in ways that they’ve never seen before so that the so-called multi-drug resistant is essentially no different than susceptible TB. Because these are new agents, they work new ways. And there are a number of promising ones in the pipeline. Taking some of those and putting those together would mean that you have a new regimen which treats everyone, drug-susceptible or drug-resistant.”
 
Drug-resistant strains of TB develop through the improper use of medication. If the drugs are taken incorrectly—such as missing doses—they become ineffective because the bacterium develops resistance.
 
Multidrug-resistant TB is on the rise, particularly in children. But finding the children who need treatment is not easy.
 
“It’s actually very difficult to diagnose TB in children because we generally think of TB as pneumonia,” Small said. “And we get pneumonia samples by having people cough and spit. And you can’t get five year olds and below to cough and spit. Because we can’t diagnose it, the world has tended to assume it doesn’t exist.  And because they assume it doesn’t exist, then they don’t feel the need to invest in diagnosing it. When you can diagnose TB with a blood sample, it’ll be a lot easier to diagnose TB in kids.”
 
Treating the millions of children and adults infected with TB may seem daunting. However, the fact that the TB mortality rate has decreased 41% since 1990 gives hope for future progress and elimination of the disease.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid