March 24 is World TB Day

TBTB used to be Australia’s top killer. In much of the rest of the world it still is, killing three people every minute.

Saturday 24 March 2012 marks 130 years since the discovery of the cause of tuberculosis (TB), a disease that kills more than one million people worldwide every year.

In 1882, TB was the leading cause of death in Australia – twenty times more deadly than the road toll is today and equivalent to the current annual death rate from all cancers.

Discovering the cause enabled Australia and other developed countries to push back successfully against TB with massive public health, screening and vaccine programs.

But TB never went away:

  • TB is the number four cause of death among women worldwide;
  • In Australia, TB still infects around 1,000 people each year; and
  • Drug-resistant strains of TB have been reported in our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea—and more than 58 other countries.

But we’ve had some wins: since 1995, 46 million people worldwide have been successfully treated and up to 6.8 million lives have been saved through short-course chemotherapy.

For World TB Day 2012, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called for global action to stop TB in our lifetime: Centenary Institute and our host of TB researchers are heeding that call.

Find out more about some of Centenary’s researchers and their stories:

Professor Warwick BrittonWarwick Britton: As a young doctor in Nepal, he saw TB up close—today his teams are looking at potential new TB drugs, new vaccines and better public health interventions.

The founder of Centenary’s group that studies TB, Warwick has seen first-hand the toll TB takes.  He is also well aware of the big picture of global efforts to stop TB.

More about Warwick, his work and his teams here.

Hear Warwick speaking about World TB Day on Radio Australia here.

Dr Greg FoxGreg Fox: A doctor and PhD student who lives with his young family in Vietnam, Greg is looking at better ways to screen for TB

Greg is part of a $1.3 million project to screen family of TB patients and others in close contact with TB patients. He’s also working on a genetics study to find who is more susceptible to TB.

More about Greg and his work here.

Listen to Greg talking about Vietnam on Radio Australia here.

Professor Warwick Britton and Dr Bernadette SaundersBernadette Saunders: Using a million dollar lab to fast track new weapons in the war on TB.

Bernie has just helped open a $1.2 million high-containment lab that will allow researchers to double their efforts to understand and fight back against TB. Bernie is Centenary’s expert on how our bodies combat TB.

More about Bernie and her work here.

Dr Magda Ellis (right) working with a colleagueMagda Ellis: Genetics expert searching rural China for clues to stop an ancient and deadly disease.

This Sydney researcher is seeking to improve treatment of TB by tracking resistance to it among thousands of rural Chinese with the help of a $750,000 NHMRC grant. Magda is a genetics expert and has worked with the Wellcome trust in the UK.  She has done fieldwork in China before.

More about Magda and her work here.

How can you join the fight?