Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Stopping the World’s Biggest Infectious Killer

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Madhukar Pai writes in Scientific American:

Diseases that have plagued humanity since ancient times continue to hold billions of people back, and tuberculosis is one of the most significant among them. Today, there are an estimated 10-million-plus new TB cases each year, and the disease causes more than 1.6 million deaths, earning it the dubious honor of being the world’s number one infectious killer.

While training as a doctor in India, where TB is more prevalent than in any other country, I saw first-hand its devastating impact on individuals, families and entire communities.

Since my time as a medical trainee, I have been encouraged to see modest progress. Globally, the mortality rate dropped 42 percent from 2000 to 2017. New diagnostics and medicines are now available, including bedaquiline, which is proving to be a potential game-changer for drug-resistant TB—and countries like South Africa have successfully rolled it out. Political commitment is also on the rise, with heads of state agreeing to mobilize $13 billion for TB care and prevention by 2022 at a high-level meeting in September, 2018.

Yet one of the most frustrating challenges in the TB epidemic perseveres: the lack of adequate 21st-century tools to fight what’s now a 21st-century epidemic. Despite recent scientific advancements for many diseases, patients and care providers continue to rely on antiquated, inefficient diagnostics, vaccines and drug regimens.

This is unacceptable.

Take vaccination. The BCG vaccine we use for TB today was developed in the 1920s, and has limited efficacy. What about diagnostics? The most widely used test for TB dates back to German scientist Robert Koch, who identified the tuberculosis bacterium under a microscope in 1882, and it is barely 50 percent sensitive. How can we defeat TB if we have no good vaccine and can only detect it half of the time?

For those who do get an accurate diagnosis, the complexity of treatment is another major problem. Existing medications require . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2019 at 2:33 pm

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