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New Zealand’s role in global tuberculosis research

New Zealand’s role in global tuberculosis research

10 October 2008

New Zealand scientists have made a number of critical contributions to the global fight against tuberculosis (TB); yet still one New Zealander a day is newly diagnosed with the disease. As recently as last month TB was responsible for the death of an Auckland woman, leaving another seriously ill and numerous more requiring testing to see if they had contracted the bacterium (germ) that causes the disease.

On the 13 October 2008, 35 of New Zealand’s leading TB researchers will meet at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, at Victoria University of Wellington, to determine what more can be done.

”The theme of the meeting is New Zealand’s role in international research to reduce the burden of tuberculosis,” says Dr Ronan O’Toole, organiser of the meeting and Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at Victoria University. “Tuberculosis kills 1.7 million people worldwide each year and new research is needed to develop more effective tools for controlling the disease”.

Tuberculosis is spread from person to person through the air and is more prevalent in conditions of household crowding and relative poverty. With current vaccines only having limited effectiveness and the emergence of drug-resistant strains, there is an increasing need for the development of better TB vaccines and drugs.

Infection of New Zealanders with TB isn’t the only concern to a country heavily reliant on its burgeoning dairy and beef industries. Bovine TB is considered the most important infectious disease of domestic livestock, with ~$100 million spent annually in this country on control programmes to minimise the spread of the disease from infected wildlife to domestic animals.

The Tuberculosis NZ meeting will highlight recent developments in the generation of vaccines and anti-TB drugs against both human and bovine TB, and will feature talks from a broad cross-section of the New Zealand tuberculosis research community including chemists, immunologists, and public health scientists.

“New Zealand scientists conduct a diverse array of TB research to address the many problems we face,” said Dr Joanna Kirman, Head of the Malaghan Institute Infectious Diseases Group and co-organiser of the meeting. “We hope that this meeting will facilitate the sharing of resources and knowledge between research groups, which will accelerate our progress towards new ways to prevent and treat this insidious disease”.

By taking a concerted approach to tuberculosis control, New Zealand is ideally poised to make a real difference in the global fight against this deadly disease.

The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research is New Zealand’s premier vaccine and immunology research centre and is based at Victoria University’s Kelburn campus, Wellington. The Institute operates independently and is a charitable trust. Researchers at the Malaghan Institute are focused on developing innovative ways to harness the strength and potency of the immune system, the body’s own natural defence against disease, to treat cancer, asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and infectious disease.


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