Declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization 20 years ago, tuberculosis (TB) remains a leading cause of death by infectious disease worldwide. This year, to coincide with World Tuberculosis Day (March 24), The Lancet Infectious Diseases has published a series of papers warning of the need to curb the rising menace of untreatable tuberculosis.
The papers are available free of charge to registered users of TheLancet.com. Registration on the site is also free.
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John McConnell, Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet Infectious Diseases[/caption]
"TB is a crucially important issue for global health," said Editor-in-Chief John McConnell (@JohnSMcConnell).
He explained that the growing threat of drug-resistant TB means that without concerted action from political leaders, health policy makers, funders and others, health systems across the globe could be overwhelmed by sufferers.
The six articles are written by an international group of experts led by Professor Alimuddin Zumla, Director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health at University College London Medical School, and Dr. Marco Schito, at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation-Division of AIDS of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland:
- In "Drug-resistant tuberculosis: time for visionary political leadership (Series 5)," the authors warn that the emergence of extensively drug resistant TB in the last eight years heralds the possibility of virtually untreatable TB, and without visionary political leadership and a radical shift in policymakers' perceptions of TB, global efforts to control TB will be threatened.
- Although new drugs are being developed to treat TB, they will not reach their potential – and may even accelerate the proliferation of drug-resistant TB – if advances in drug susceptibility testing do not keep pace with the development of new drugs. This is the theme of the paper "Alignment of new tuberculosis drug regimens and drug susceptibility testing: a framework for action (Series 4)." [caption id="attachment_20403" align="alignright" width="236"] The papers in this series are available free of charge to registered users of TheLancet.com. Registration on the site is also free.[/caption]
- According to the authors of "Engaging communities in tuberculosis research (Series 6)," the epidemic is fueled by economic instability, poverty, migration, discrimination, stigma, social marginalization, inadequate access to health and social services, and lack of political voice. The paper represents a call to overcome scepticism about the value of community engagement in research, McConnell said.
- "Tuberculosis comorbidity with communicable and non-communicable diseases: integrating health services and control efforts (Series 3)" focuses on how countries with a high burden of TB now begin to face unprecedented increases in linked diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
- Meanwhile "Advances in tuberculosis diagnostics: the Xpert MTB/RIF assay and future prospects for a point-of-care test (Series 1)" looks at how molecular biology technology is improving the diagnosis of TB.
- Finally "Tuberculosis biomarkers discovery: developments, needs, and challenges (Series 2)" examines recent advances in reliable biomarkers for TB. Biomarkers are characteristic features of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection that could be used to determine whether a patient is likely to fall ill (or whether they are likely to get better). However, while major efforts are underway to establish a global biobank of TB samples, which would greatly facilitate the search for TB biomarkers, the authors warn that further investment in this area of TB research is sorely needed. They describe insufficient funding, not lack of scientific knowledge, as being the main barrier to developing useful biomarkers.
Collectively, the papers represent a stark warning of the dangers posed by the disease, and McConnell hopes they will help support ongoing efforts to combat its spread.
"Through our commitment to working with the TB research community, by publishing these important reviews," he said, "we want to contribute to the fight against this very real threat."
The Lancet Infectious Diseases is recognized for providing a global, authoritative and independent forum for the highest quality infectious diseases research and opinion, covering the research and treatment of diseases and conditions such as HIV/AIDS, health-care association infections, antibiotic resistance, malaria, tuberculosis, emerging infections and public health.
To view the series visit TheLancet.com/series/tuberculosis-2013.
About the journal
The Lancet Infectious Diseasesis recognized for providing a global, authoritative and independent forum for the highest quality infectious diseases research and opinion, covering the research and treatment of diseases and conditions such as HIV/AIDS, health-care association infections, antibiotic resistance, malaria, tuberculosis, emerging infections and public health.The Lancet journals are published by Elsevier.
[caption id="attachment_13316" align="alignright" width="110"] Ian Evans[/caption]
Elsevier Connect Author
Ian Evans is Communications Business Partner at Elsevier, based in Oxford. He joined Elsevier two years ago from a small trade publisher specializing in popular science and literary fiction. Prior to this he worked for several years on a leading trade magazine for the electrical retail industry, reporting on new technologies and market trends in consumer electronics. He holds a degree in English literature from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and spends his spare time reading, writing, and hitting drums.