The World Health Organization says every year, between two and three
million people die of tuberculosis. The global crisis has caught the attention
of governments and organizations worldwide. The National Institutes of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health,
near Washington, DC, plays a leading role in efforts to control the spread of TB.
of the institute, Dr. Anthony Fauci, talked about the latest efforts with VOA
English to Africa reporter Jackson Mvunganyi. Dr. Fauci has led the institute
for over 20 years and says it continues to support international tuberculosis
research and prevention efforts. It also
helps devise strategies to enhance local research and encourage international
partnerships. Outside of NIAID, Dr. Fauci has made many contributions to basic
and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and
He says he believes health systems around the
world were not quick to respond to the challenges posed by tuberculosis. "In
developed countries, there was a feeling that they had completely fought off
the disease," he says, "and in developing countries they lacked the capacity to
deal with TB."
But he says the
AIDS pandemic forced countries to recognize the growing challenges of the
disease because people with HIV are susceptible to TB.
The emergence of drug-resistant strains have increased the need for new TB
drugs. NIAID supports research into the
mechanisms of drug resistance and is working to identify new anti-TB drugs,
Dr. Fauci explains that each year thousands of
people move from a status of latent to full-blown tuberculosis, where they require
treatment. One third of the world's population is infected, but many do not yet
show signs of illness. Fauchi says most of these people are in the low to
middle income countries, where AIDS is the greatest disease burden.
NIAID provides facilities and resources for screening potential TB drugs,
including a vaccine, in animals. He says the rate of TB is growing in countries
like South Africa, which has witnessed outbreaks of TB in healthcare settings
among caregivers, and in prisons, where there is a high prevalence of HIV
infection among the inmates.
One of the
biggest challenges in responding to TB is diagnosing it. NIAID supports the
development of new and improved tools to more accurately diagnose the disease
early. It also
In Uganda and South Africa, the institute
encourages researchers to develop tools that allow clinicians to rapidly assess
how people respond to therapy and to assist in conducting drug and vaccine