Image: Some of the daily medication required to manage DR-TB in Daru, Papua New Guinea
On World TB Day 2018, Burnet Institute’s tuberculosis researchers and health specialists are demonstrating their support for this year’s theme, ‘Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world’.
The theme promotes the need to build commitment to end TB at all levels, from Heads of State, through to community leaders, health workers, NGOs and people affected with TB.
Burnet’s commitment is being realised where the need is greatest, such as our RID-TB project to respond to the outbreak of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) in Western Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), where in the town of Daru rates of DR-TB are among the highest documented globally.
Burnet is part of a multi-stakeholder response in PNG, working with the national and provincial governments of PNG to reduce the transmission of TB in hotspots.
“Since the project began in 2014, we have been able to stabilise the situation with high rates of treatment success whilst building local capacity and strengthening the health system,” Dr Suman Majumdar, Burnet Deputy Program Director (Health Security), said.
“This is due to the significant investments of the Australian and PNG governments that include the early uptake of innovations that are being scaled up globally, for example, rapid diagnostic tests, new TB drugs and the involvement of peer counselors in patient-centred models of community based care.”
Despite significant progress, TB continues to be the top infectious killer globally, claiming over 4,500 lives per day, and 1.8 million deaths in 2016, according to the World Health Organization.
World TB Day provides the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the disease and mobilise political and social commitment for accelerate progress to end TB in the lead-up to November’s UN General Assembly high-level meeting on TB, which will bring together Heads of State in New York.
TB will be just the fifth health issue, after HIV/AIDS, Ebola, non-communicable diseases, and anti-microbial resistance, to be addressed by the UN General Assembly, and Dr Majumdar is hopeful of a global impact.
“Visionary political commitment is the first essential ingredient in an effective global response and we hope this can be translated into increased funding, in particular for research,” he said.
“We cannot continue the status quo in the TB response. We will not end TB, or reduce DR-TB spread without an investment in TB research. This means discovering new tools (vaccine, tests, drugs) and research to better utilise existing and new tools in TB programs (operational and implementation research).”
Burnet Institute is committed to the goal of eliminating TB as a public health threat by 2030, in particular the crisis of DR-TB in the Indo-Pacific, by accelerating the implementation of innovative approaches to TB management and research in high burden settings.
Burnet aims to achieve this by partnering with governments, development partners, academic institutions, reference laboratories and civil society working to end TB.
By integrating discovery research, international development and public health approaches we are providing significant support to national TB programs to strengthen health systems, design and evaluate programs including using modelling and software tools, and building capacity for operational research.
March 24, World TB Day marks the date in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.
Find out more about Burnet’s TB activities.