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Tuberculosis

Our approach to tackling TB is through a range of measures – developing new vaccines and drugs, improving our understanding of TB immunology, discovering new biomarkers and contributing to public policy and practice. As a part of the Centre of Research Excellence in Tuberculosis Control we have the platform to translate new discoveries into more effective tools to control TB.

UNDERSTANDING DISEASE

Tuberculosis (TB) is the major cause of death from a bacterial pathogen in adults; in 2013 alone there were 1.5 million deaths from TB and 9 million new TB cases worldwide. In addition it remains an important cause of childhood illness and mortality in high burden countries, with 80,000 deaths in HIV-negative children in 2013.

Of importance to Australia, TB is an enormous and rapidly growing problem in our region, which contains 58% of global TB cases and 56% of multi-drug resistant TB.

As a result, our STOP-TB strategy calls for intensified research into more effective tools to control TB, including completely new approaches to TB vaccines, TB drugs and tools for the diagnosis of active TB and biomarkers to monitor the response to therapy.

FINDING A CURE

We are developing vaccines for delivery to the lung to boost immunity against TB. We are also developing subunit vaccines that contain proteins to stimulate protective immunity against different stages of the TB infection.

Around 2 million people have latent TB infection, with around 5% risk of developing active TB during their lifetime. As such, we are working to discover new biomarkers to distinguish those with active TB. We are also conducting a genome wide association study to identify genetic variants that contribute to increased susceptibility to TB.

The major threat to TB control is the emergence of drug resistant strains of the infection. For the past five years we have also been working towards the development of new drugs that are effective against these increasingly prevalent drug resistant strains.

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Professor Warwick Britton

Head of Tuberculosis Research Program, Centenary Institute

Bosch Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Immunology, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney

Consultant Physician, Department of Clinical Immunology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

Research Interests
Recently, he initiated new collaborative research programs in Vietnam on improving the control of tuberculosis and on immunogenetics of tuberculosis.

Achievements

Since 1997 his group has used an aerosol model of infection with virulent M. tuberculosis in a dedicated PC3 facility in the Centenary Institute. This has allowed them to analyse the cellular and cytokine control of M. tuberculosis infection in the lungs using genetically modified mice and to develop novel subunit and recombinant BCG vaccines to prevent infection with M. tuberculosis.

In addition his group has identified a new secreted enzyme of M. tuberculosis, which is a novel target for drug development.  Professor Britton also has a longstanding research interest in the epidemiology and immunology of asthma, and established a long running cohort on childhood asthma in 1982.

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