Image: Burnet Deputy Program Director (Health Security) Dr Suman Majumdar
The importance of promoting innovation, science and research in the quest to eliminate tuberculosis was Burnet Deputy Program Director (Health Security), Dr Suman Majumdar’s key message at a special TB Event in Sydney organised by RESULTS Australia in the lead-up to World TB Day on Sunday.
Dr Majumdar was speaking on a panel including the Co-Chair of the Australian TB Caucus Senator The Hon. Lisa Singh, Head of DFAT’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security Mr Robin Davies, and Head of the TB Centre for Research Excellence Dr Warwick Britton and Dr Anna Colvin from the Department of Health, convened to raise awareness about the world’s deadliest disease.
“Our current actions and investments are inadequate to meet the target set to end the TB epidemic in 2030 – 11 years away. The solution is to accelerate what works and put in place new approaches, which is research and innovation,” Dr Majumdar said.
“What does that actually mean on the ground? It means not only discovering new tests and treatments and trials but also implementation science to bring these to people who need them.
“Piloting TB elimination models is the big idea that accelerates beyond what is currently being done. This means a major focus on treating latent TB infection and more comprehensive patient-centred approaches and using a new test or a new treatment that hasn’t been used before.
“These interventions need to be implemented with evaluation and ethically, that is, in a research framework.
“The WHO End TB Strategy sets forward the framework and targets. But you want to accelerate beyond what we’re already doing, and that’s difficult in TB where things have been done the same for many, many years, you do need a movement to push forward, such as the Zero TB Initiative which brings together local coalitions, governments and technical agencies. ”
Senator Singh spoke of the need for an effective vaccine against TB.
“As has been proven for other diseases such as smallpox and polio, prevention through vaccination would be the most cost-effective tool for ending TB as an epidemic,” Senator Singh said.
Image: Dr Majumdar (far right) with fellow panelists Robin Davies, Dr Anna Colvin, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, and Dr Warwick Britton
“A new vaccine could be available within ten years if appropriate research and development is supported.”
Dr Majumdar said it would be critical to capitalise on the development of new tools such as point of care tests, effectively a portable GeneXpert device that could be launched later this year, and shorter, more effective TB treatments, and a vaccine that are under trial.
“In 2018 and 2019 there have been major changes to WHO guidelines for MDR (multidrug resistant)-TB and for latent TB, with the recommendation of newer drugs / regimens and shorter treatments.” he said.
Despite significant progress over recent decades, TB continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide, claiming more than 4300 lives per day.
The emergence of MDR-TB poses a major health security threat, and the Asia Pacific region is home to more than 62 percent of the world’s new cases of TB.
Find out more about Burnet’s TB research, or contribute to our Campaign to STOP TB.