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Otago researchers join major international TB study

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Friday, 11 June 2010

The University of Otago’s Centre for International Health is joining a major global trial studying the effectiveness of a new treatment for latent tuberculosis (TB) that could help to eliminate the disease worldwide.

Centre researchers and their collaborators at the University of Padjadjaran in Indonesia have gained around $540,000 in funding to run an arm of the clinical trial in Bandung, Indonesia.

Centre Director Professor Philip Hill says the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately one-third of the world’s entire population are carriers of the latent form of tuberculosis.

“Although these carriers show no symptoms and are not contagious, they can develop active tuberculosis at any time. It’s estimated there are eight million new active cases each year with two million dying from the disease.”

Professor Hill says that finding more effective treatments to tackle the enormous number of latent infections is key to efforts to eliminate the disease.

The current drug treatment for latent TB lasts nine months and is not free of side effects. The trial is comparing the existing treatment’s effectiveness with another drug administered over only four months and which has fewer side effects. The drug, rifampin, is currently used for treating active TB.

The clinical trial is being led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Canada and is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The study involves around 6,500 latently infected people in Canada, Brazil, Korea, Australia, Indonesia and Benin in West Africa.

Professor Hill says the opportunity for the Centre for International Health to contribute to the research is exciting.

“As the Centre has only been up and running for a relatively short time, it is pleasing that we can take part in an important project that will cement the existing TB research partnership with the University of Padjadjaran.”

For more information, contact

Professor Philip Hill
McAuley Professor of International Health
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 9462
Email philip.hill@otago.ac.nz
Web www.otago.ac.nz/internationalhealth

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