The TB Ward at Daru Hospital, Western Province, Papua New Guinea
Burnet Institute is prioritising the fight against tuberculosis (TB) with the announcement on World TB Day of the Burnet TB Initiative, to be headed by Professor Steve Graham.
Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC said TB is widely acknowledged as the most important health problem in our region and warrants an appropriate response.
“We’re formalising and growing our response to TB through the Burnet TB Initiative, an enhancement in our capacity to carry out TB research and development,” Professor Crabb said.
“That’s included the recruitment of a number of staff including the very senior appointment of Professor Steve Graham to head the initiative.”
Professor Crabb described TB as a regional and global crisis, especially the emergence of widespread drug-resistant tuberculosis in our nearest neighbours.
“What we intend is a research-to-development response recognising that addressing the problem of tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is not just a matter of scaling up existing intervention tools,” Professor Crabb said.
“New knowledge and new tools are desperately needed and we are perfectly positioned to contribute.
“This includes the development of rapid diagnostic tests, but also providing regional technical leadership, with Steve Graham at the helm.”
A paediatrician with more than 20 years of clinical and research experience in Africa and Asia-Pacific, Professor Graham joins Burnet as Senior Principal Research Fellow.
He is Professor of International Child Health at the University of Melbourne and honorary research fellow and international child health group leader for Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, with more than 170 peer-reviewed articles to his credit.
“We’ve worked hard on raising the profile of child TB, because, regardless of the challenges, no child should have to die of a disease that has been preventable, treatable and curable for 70 years,” Professor Graham said.
Responsible for the deaths of more people than any other infectious disease in history, TB continues to kill 1.5 million people each year with the majority of the global burden in the Asia-Pacific region.
Due to relative political and financial neglect, TB remains a significant global health problem, thriving in disadvantaged communities with little visibility.
The Burnet TB Initiative will complement the Institute’s vital work to develop a new device, the size of a stick of chewing gum, that can rapidly diagnose tuberculosis.
Burnet’s Head of Diagnostic Research, Associate Professor David Anderson said a rapid TB diagnostic is urgently needed to replace existing tests which can take up to a month to deliver a result.
In that time, the condition invariably worsens for infected patients who can become ‘super spreaders’, transmitting the bug to a large number of people.
“There has never been a greater need to develop a test that can quickly diagnose those infected with TB,” Professor Anderson said.
“Our TB diagnostic test program has great momentum that will only be enhanced by the Burnet TB Initiative.”