Leading Australian and regional researchers, clinicians and epidemiologists will share their concerns and expertise in a bid to tackle the high burden of tuberculosis and emergence of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in the Asia/Pacific region.
The Advances in Tuberculosis: Australian and Regional Perspectives symposium hosted by the Burnet Institute at the Royal Melbourne Hospital from 14 to 15 June is supported by AusAID, the Australia-China Council and the John Burge Trust.
Speakers from Australia, Papua New Guinea, China, South Africa and the Pacific will present on TB epidemiology, clinical considerations, programmatic responses, diagnostics and vaccine research.
Over sixty percent of the global burden of tuberculosis occurs in Australia’s neighbouring countries, particularly in Papua New Guinea. TB is a leading cause of infectious disease morbidity and mortality with more than a million people dying each year from this curable and preventable disease. 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.
Dr Suman Majumdar, an infectious diseases physician at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and a Burnet Institute Associate, said the increased burden of TB in the region is being fuelled by the emergence of MDR-TB, TB/HIV co-infection and the neglect of childhood TB.
“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,” Dr Majumdar said.
“Large gaps remain in the on-ground implementation in countries with weakened health systems, poverty and vulnerable populations.
“In the case of MDR-TB, patient’s 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.”
The symposium will also address the urgent need for a more collaborative response to TB research and increased donor funding into TB programs, research and development.
Burnet’s Professor Mike Toole AM will present on “Australia’s role: responding to TB in our region” and Associate Professor David Anderson will discuss Burnet’s novel diagnostic tools and their future impact on TB diagnosis.