Nav: Home

Otago researcher claims new study a step forward in fight to eliminate tuberculosis

August 01, 2018

The McAuley Professor of International Health at the University of Otago is labelling the findings of new international collaborative research a step forward in the fight to eliminate the world's top infectious disease killer, tuberculosis.

Professor Philip Hill was involved in the research, published today in the world-leading New England Journal of Medicine, which evaluated the effectiveness of a new way to prevent people with latent tuberculosis infection developing the full-blown disease.

Results show a four-month daily regimen of antibiotic rifampicin in both adults and children is as effective as a nine-month daily regimen of another antibiotic, isoniazid.

"Not only was it as effective at preventing tuberculosis, but the participants were more likely to complete the course and had fewer side effects," Professor Hill explains.

"This is a real step forward in our aspiration to eliminate tuberculosis. It means we can now offer a more attractive option to the many millions of people in the world who are at risk of developing tuberculosis."

Tuberculosis is a major global health problem. It is estimated a quarter of the world's population are infected with the pathogen that causes tuberculosis and very few of them are offered preventive treatment to stop them developing the disease.

"Importantly, we know that if we don't find a way to give them preventive treatment, we will never eliminate tuberculosis from the planet," Professor Hill says.

Led by Professor Dick Menzies from McGill University in Canada, the study recruited individuals in Canada, Indonesia, Guinea, Benin, Brazil, Australia, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Ghana. Professor Hill's group worked with collaborators in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia to enrol and follow-up 1000 of the 6900 participants across the study.

Professor Hill explains that most people who are infected after exposure to tuberculosis do not develop the disease, the mycobacterium stays "asleep" in their system. The risk can be brought down to close to zero if they have preventive treatment.

Traditionally, this has involved nine months of daily isoniazid, but the long duration of treatment and the side effects, including the potential to develop hepatitis, are major drawbacks.

While the results of the present study may not impact on the large part of the world's population who are not offered preventive treatment, Professor Hill considers this may not be the case if researchers can discover an even shorter treatment regimen.

"One option already envisaged is higher dose rifampicin, which is now used safely for tuberculosis meningitis and is being evaluated in the treatment of tuberculosis of the lungs. Preventive treatment using high dose rifampicin for four to six weeks is an obvious option to consider next."

In anticipation of the increasing importance of combating latent tuberculosis infection for the elimination of tuberculosis, Professor Hill and others have made this area a major focus of their research, conducting a wide range of studies with collaborators in different parts of the world.

It is hoped that some of this work will be done in New Zealand where, for example, Māori are likely to have a relatively high rate of latent tuberculosis infection. Although New Zealand has a low rate of the disease, new cases continue to occur with half of New Zealand-born tuberculosis patients being Māori.

Earlier this year Professor Hill received a $250,000 grant from the Health Research Council to further investigate tuberculosis among Māori in New Zealand.
For more information contact:

Professor Philip Hill
McAuley Professor of International Health
Tel 03 479 9462
Mob 021 279 7214

Liane Topham-Kindley
Senior Communications Adviser
Tel 03 479 9065
Mob 021 279 9065

University of Otago

Related Tuberculosis Articles:

Old target, new mechanism for overcoming tuberculosis resistance
In strains of tuberculosis that have developed drug resistance mutations, researchers have identified a secondary pathway that can be activated to reinstate drug sensitivity.
Researchers use tiny 3-D spheres to combat tuberculosis
Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new 3-D system to study human infection in the laboratory.
How the tuberculosis vaccine may protect against other diseases
The tuberculosis vaccine is well known to help protect against other infectious diseases, as well as cancer, but the exact mechanisms have not been clear.
Tuberculosis bacteria find their ecological niche
An international team of researchers have isolated and analyzed genetically tuberculosis bacteria from several thousand patients from over a hundred countries.
Tuberculosis and HIV co-infection
The HIV virus increases the potency of the tuberculosis bacterium (Mtb) by affecting a central function of the immune system.
Scientists explain why Russian tuberculosis is the most infectious
Scientists conducted a large-scale analysis of the proteins and genomes of mycobacterium tuberculosis strains that are common in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union and found features that provide a possible explanation for their epidemiological success.
Tuberculosis elimination at stake
New data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and WHO/Europe show that an estimated 340,000 Europeans developed tuberculosis in 2014, corresponding to a rate of 37 cases per 100,000 population.
Curcumin may help overcome drug-resistant tuberculosis
New research indicates that curcumin -- a substance in turmeric that is best known as one of the main components of curry powder -- may help fight drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Stopping tuberculosis requires new strategy
Unless there is a major shift in the way the world fights tuberculosis -- from a reliance on biomedical solutions to an approach that combines biomedical interventions with social actions -- the epidemic and drug resistance will worsen, say researchers at Harvard T.H.
Tulane researchers working on new tuberculosis vaccine
Researchers at the Tulane National Primate Research Center are leading efforts to find a new vaccine for tuberculosis, one of the world's deadliest diseases.

Related Tuberculosis Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#532 A Class Conversation
This week we take a look at the sociology of class. What factors create and impact class? How do we try and study it? How does class play out differently in different countries like the US and the UK? How does it impact the political system? We talk with Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College and coauthor of the book "The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged", about class and its impacts on people and our systems.