Image: Dr Stenard Hiasihri reviews an x-ray in Daru General Hospital, Papua New Guinea
Burnet’s collaborative research, capacity building and health system strengthening projects addressing tuberculosis (TB) and in particular, drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) in the Indo-Pacific have received a vital funding boost.
As part of a major funding announcement this week by the Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Burnet’s project, ‘Comprehensive community-based solutions to reduce transmission of drug-resistant TB’ will receive AUD$2.51 million from the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Global Health Initiative.
The government announced four new research projects totalling more than AUD$8.3 million to tackle the threat of DR-TB and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in neighbouring countries.
Minister Hunt said the research had “the potential to save many thousands of lives in the Pacific and around the world”.
“The World Health Organization estimates around 10 million people each year fall sick with TB, with nearly 60 per cent of new cases each year occurring in the Indo-Pacific region,” Minister Hunt said.
Burnet has also received AUD$6.25 million from DFAT’s Centre for Health Security to strengthen capacity in several sites in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia as knowledge and innovation hubs to catalyse progress towards ending TB and addressing DR-TB in the Indo-Pacific.
“Investing in research to generate knowledge and test innovative solutions to address DR-TB, coupled with building local capacity, is vital if we are to achieve effective progress towards ending TB,” Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC said.
“We welcome this increased support from the MRFF and DFAT’s Centre for Health Security to assist with research efforts and capacity building to strengthen the public health response in the region to tackle TB, the leading infectious disease killer of our time.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, said the research reinforced Australia’s close relationship with, and commitment to supporting, our Pacific Island countries.
“All of the chosen projects represent high-quality, collaborative research with the potential to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of AMR and DR-TB in Pacific Island countries,” Minister Payne said.
“These projects will reduce sickness and deaths from TB and AMR, and also build health collaboration between Australia and Pacific Island countries, workforce capacity and understanding of AMR and DR-TB in Pacific countries.”
Minister Payne said the MRFF supported research would complement work being done to support intensive TB detection and treatment in the Indo-Pacific region by DFAT through the grant to Burnet announced by the Government in August 2019.
Warren Entsch MP, co-chair of the Australian TB Caucus that focuses on TB in the Pacific, welcomed the announcement of funding for the research projects.
“TB is one of the oldest diseases known to man and has a devastating impact on people, families and communities,” he said.
“While it was reduced to isolated areas through antibiotics, the spread of antibiotic resistant strains in recent years is a massive threat to health in less developed nations.
“These practical research projects will make a huge contribution to controlling and eventually eliminating the threat of drug resistant tuberculosis in the Pacific.”