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Control of drug-resistant TB in the Pacific region: a longterm imperative

Welcoming a funding boost announced by Health Minister Plibersek today, Professor Warwick Britton, head of Centenary Institute’s tuberculosis research program, said, “We need to be helping countries like Papua New Guinea come to grips with the problems of TB control. This means having the resources to treat TB, recognize drug resistant TB, and have treatment regimens to control the spread of TB.”

In the wake of calls for a more intense focus on tuberculosis control, Centenary’s contribution to TB research in Australia and the Pacific has been recognised by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), while the World Health Organisation (WHO) is encouraging health services to invest in MDR-TB.

Professor Britton, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, has been awarded $2.49 million towards a Centre of Research Excellence on tuberculosis control: from discovery to public health practice and policy – collaborative program with colleagues from the University of Sydney, Woolcock Institute for Medical Research, University of Melbourne, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Today’s grant adds to the significant investment and effort by Centenary in containing the spread of TB, still one of the world’s most devastating infectious diseases and a growing threat to Australia. There have been reports of drug resistant strains of TB in Papua New Guinea, our closest neighbour.

“Where multi drug resistant TB has been around for a decade or more, and has not been treated, it is completely predictable that extensively drug resistant TB — that is, resistance to the five main classes of drugs used to treat TB – will occur in countries like Papua New Guinea” Professor Britton said.

In March this year, Centenary opened a $1.2 million high-containment laboratory that will allow researchers to double their efforts to understand and fight back against TB, a bacterium that lives inside two billion people worldwide and kills three people every minute.

“We are working to understand how the bacterium infects us and can hide so successfully from our immune defences for decades; why only 10% of infected people become ill; and how to stop the spread of TB by carefully managing infected people. In addition, we are applying what we learn to develop new ways of fighting TB, potential new drugs to treat TB, and new vaccines to protect us.”

“The Centenary Institute’s contribution to the war against TB is broad and deep,” says Professor Britton. “It is important for us not only to assist the global fight against this deadly disease, but also to be prepared against an invasion of our own country.”

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Media Contacts

Interview: Professor Warwick Britton — 0414981003 or contact Suzie Graham on 0418683166

Media Release — Minister’s office / NHMRC http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/media/releases/2012/researchers-deadly-esophagus-cancer-share-42-million-grants

Full media release and backgrounder here.

Read more on the Centenary blog here.

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