A $2.5 million, six-nation initiative to fight tuberculosis has opened at the Centenary Institute, Sydney. It brings together over 14 institutes.
Tuberculosis once killed more Australians than cancer. In 2011 we saw just 4 deaths. But the fight against TB is getting harder, and our nearest neighbour, PNG, has more than 70 times the cases.
The Centre for Excellence in Tuberculosis Control (TB-CRE) links researchers in six countries to improve TB control, with the ultimate goal of eliminating TB transmission in Australia, and contributing to the world-wide campaign to eliminate TB by 2050. It is funded by the NHMRC, the National Health and Medical Research Council.
“In the late 19th Century tuberculosis (TB) was the leading cause of death in Australia—20 times deadlier per capita than all cancer conditions today put together,” says Centre director Professor Warwick Britton.
TB remains a threat in the 21st century as new varieties of the disease which are deadlier and harder to treat have taken hold across the globe. The TB crisis in PNG illustrates the problem.
Papua New Guinea has the highest TB burden in the Pacific region with over 14,500 new cases diagnosed a year. The incidence of TB in the nation, which occurs at a rate of 434 cases per 100,000 people, is more than 70 times higher than in Australia.
Some of the worst cases are treated here in Australia. A young woman with extensively drug-resistant TB has become a medical refugee in Cairns. Originally from Daru Island, a few hundred kilometres north of Cape York, the woman spent a year in quarantine and died in March this year.
The threat is not only to developing countries. “Australia’s aging population and high numbers of people with chronic health conditions increase our vulnerability as a nation,” says the University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Jamie Triccas, a chief investigator for the centre.
Despite these threats Australia is uniquely positioned to lead multi-national research into the prevention, detection and management of TB within the Asia pacific region and beyond. The new centre hopes to establish Australia as a powerhouse for TB-based research.
The new Centre is working to:
- Develop new vaccines.
- Improve TB prevention, particularly for vulnerable children.
- Develop ways of finding new cases faster and start treatment sooner – reducing the risk of transmission.
- Track, map and understand the spread of the disease.
- Tackle the ethical and legal barriers of TB control such as establishing the rights of people with drug-resistant TB who pose a risk to others.
The Centre is a collaboration between: Centenary Institute, University of Sydney, Woolcock Institute for Medical Research, University of Melbourne, Vietnam, Indonesia, WHO/Fiji, China and New Zealand.
Toni Stevens, 0401 763 130 firstname.lastname@example.org
LauraBeth Albanese, 0450 798 089 L.Albanese@centenary.org