World TB Day
World TB Day is Saturday, March 24 and this year's theme is "Eliminate TB in my Lifetime."
Balintfy: Tuberculosis or TB remains one of the major causes of disability and death worldwide.
Fauci: TB is a challenge because it is one of the most pervasive diseases, certainly infectious diseases in the world.
Balintfy: Dr. Anthony Fauci is an NIH institute director. He explains that TB is a contagious and an often severe airborne disease caused by a bacterial infection, typically in the lungs.
Fauci: If we look at the big killers, HIV, AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, tuberculosis, there are about 8 million plus new active cases per year; there are about 1.45 million deaths per year. About one-third of the entire world's population is infected with tuberculosis, usually latent tuberculosis, but that's always a threat for activation. So this is a huge, huge problem of immense dimensions, so it's just one of those things that we have to start getting our arms around.
Balintfy: NIH researchers point out that although recent progress against the disease is heartening, the control and eventual elimination of TB will require a long-term, multifaceted commitment from the global health and research communities.
Fauci: We have done well in some respects with tuberculosis, but we have a lot of gaps that we need to fill. The theme of this year's World Tuberculosis Day is “Eliminating Tuberculosis in My Lifetime,” which is a very bold statement. But I think it is feasible. It's feasible because we finally have reawakened and rekindled the interest and the resources in filling major research and implementation gaps with tuberculosis.
Balintfy: Dr. Fauci adds that TB research needs to be brought into the 21st century.
Fauci: Some of the tools that we are still using are 19th century tools like the microscope for the diagnostics of smears, of sputum for tuberculosis. We have not really developed a brand-new drug exclusively for tuberculosis in over 40 years. We have a vaccine that does not work at all in pulmonary tuberculosis. We don't understand the pathogenesis of TB. We don't know why people have latent tuberculosis and why some go on to activate. There are so many things that we don't understand that we are just now starting to really scratch the surface of.
Balintfy: Of note the World Health Organization is now including biomedical research as a critical part of the global fight against TB. And at NIH, TB clinical research capacity for adults and children, with and without HIV co-infection, is increasing.
Fauci: So I have a lot of optimism that with the enhanced implementation of the tools that we already have, together with a major push on developing countermeasures in the form of diagnostics, therapeutics, and hopefully a vaccine, that I think the theme of this year's World Tuberculosis Day is something that's not completely out of the realm of reality.
Balintfy: To see a complete statement regarding World TB Day, and for more information on TB and TB research efforts, visit www.niaid.nih.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Joe Balintfy— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®