Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s deadliest communicable diseases.
Of the estimated 10.4 million people who developed TB in 2016, more than half (62 per cent) were in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions. The African and South-East Asia Region Regions account for about four out of five HIV-positive TB cases and TB deaths among people who were HIV-positive.
While the number of new cases with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains stable (around 2 percent), the much higher levels of resistance and poor treatment outcomes still needs to be addressed. In 2016, there were 490,000 cases of MDR-TB with 6.2 per cent of those cases being XDR-TB.
An infectious disease caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, it commonly affects the respiratory system. This can result in a range of symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, weight loss and weakness, fever and night sweats. The bacteria is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease.
Burnet’s TB research
Burnet is actively involved in TB research with our unique ability to address health system management and support community interventions, through to leading molecular epidemiology studies and innovation in diagnostics for tuberculosis.
Staff involved in Burnet’s TB Working Group include Associate Professor David Anderson (Head of Burnet Institute’s TB program), Dr Jack Richards, Dr Suman Majumdar, Professor Suzanne Crowe AM, Professor Margaret Hellard, Dr James Trauer, and Honorary Principal Research Fellow from the TB-CRE, Associate Professor Steve Graham.
Image appears in WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2017.
Research and Public Health Focus
Of most concern is the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB and this is the focus of much of our work which involves:
- Monitoring drug-resistant TB in the Pacific
- Understanding how these drug resistant strains spread within certain populations in Africa and Papua New Guinea.
- Looking at how we can help build the most appropriate health systems to deal with this emerging problem.
- Developing new rapid diagnostic tools to help manage patient care
- Developing potential TB assays
- Providing epidemiological support to the assessment of patterns of TB
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)
While tuberculosis is treatable with a six-month course of antibiotics, in some countries the bacteria is becoming increasingly drug-resistant and is presenting major concerns among health workers.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the two most powerful, first-line, anti-TB drugs.
Infectious diseases physician and Burnet Institute Associate, Dr Suman Majumdar said, despite recent promising developments, the current available tools for TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention are not adequate to reach the goal of universal access to TB care and zero TB deaths.
“In the case of MDR-TB, patients living with this disease can no longer be ignored as untreated; this disease can kill and spread to others. Cure is possible, but current treatment involves an excruciating two-year ordeal of swallowing 20 pills a day and receiving a painful injection each day for more than eight months – the side-effects are terrible.
“Treatment needs to be coupled with close patient support and delivery of care close to their homes and livelihoods. We urgently need enhanced preventative measures, universal access to diagnostics (especially children) and a safer, shorter treatment for DR-TB.”
Australasian Tuberculosis Forum
Burnet’s Dr Suman Majumdar is part of this initiative which aims to create closer connections between the broad range of policy makers, clinicians, patients, scientists and public health workers working for tuberculosis control and elimination in our region.
For more information visit the ATF webpage.
- Access Point Of Care Initiative
Increasing access to life-saving treatments for infectious diseases through point-of-care tests.
- APPRISE - Centre for Research Excellence
The Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Diseases Emergencies (APPRISE).
- Building a Centre of Excellence for Research and Training for DR-TB in Daru, Papua New Guinea
Building operational research capacity for TB in PNG through training, mentorship and research.
- Building capacity and improving tuberculosis diagnosis in Timor-Leste
This project seeks to improve the diagnosis of people with TB with the use of GeneXpert technology.
- Communicable disease screening and prevalence among migrants
A study to improve communicable disease health outcomes among migrants entering Australia.
- Decision science using Optima
Research and applications across disease areas to improve allocative efficiency.
- Demonstrating the impact of next generation Cepheid tools in TB
GeneXpert Ultra and GeneXpert Omni for the diagnosis of tuberculosis at the microscopy centre level: PNG
- Enhanced screening and preventive therapy for TB in Daru, PNG (ESCAPE-TB)
A community-based model for screening and delivering preventive therapy for latent TB in Daru, PNG
- Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
A collaborative research program aimed at providing life-saving health care for women and children in PNG.
- HMHB - Health Services for Postnatal and Infancy Care
Focuses on services during postnatal period and through the first 12 months in East New Britain, PNG.
- Novel reagents for the serological diagnosis of tuberculosis
Using a drop of blood, an innovative diagnostic test may be able to detect if a patient has tuberculosis (TB).
- Rapid and accurate diagnosis of TB: New trial in PNG
New PNG arm of a randomised control trial to trial new tuberculosis point-of-care technology.
- RID-TB Patient Education and Counselling
Reducing the impact of DR-TB through patient-centred education and counselling in Daru, PNG.
- RID-TB: Reducing the Impact of Drug-Resistant TB in Western Province, PNG
The project supports an effective provincial program to reduce the impact of TB in Daru.
- Scenario analysis for programmatic tuberculosis control in Western Province, Papua New Guinea
Construction of a mathematical model to simulate the TB epidemic in Western Province of PNG, which will be used to inform programmatic responses.
- Strengthening the control of tuberculosis: China and Australia's partnership
With funding support from the Australia-China Council, Burnet is collaborating with the Institute for Pathogen Biology in Beijing on developing novel assays for improved tuberculosis serology.
- TB-MAC Multi-modelling Exercise
TB-MAC is an international consortium of modellers, coordinated through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
- The Social and Cultural Determinants of TB in Daru [SCuD-TB Daru – Study 1]
A pilot project about people with TB and their contacts: beliefs, access to services and experiences.