Tuberculosis (TB)

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.

(Courtesy: WHO)

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.

Current Projects

Past Projects


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