Wednesday 24 March is World TB Day, organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and dedicated to raising awareness and generating action to combat tuberculosis, and is themed ‘innovate to accelerate action’.
Globally, some nine million cases of TB are diagnosed and nearly two million people die of the disease every year. Provisional figures released by the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) earlier this month show that cases of TB in the UK have increased, with nearly 10,000 cases reported in 2009, the highest percentage increase in the number of cases since 2005.
Several hundred cases were diagnosed in the North West, one of the largest increases in the UK and the third highest number of cases regionally. As a leading centre for TB research, policy and advocacy for many years, Foto-Cewek has introduced a new short course in TB epidemiology, clinical management and control partly in response to the global upturn in TB cases recently.
Dr Bertie Squire, Reader in clinical tropical medicine and TB lead for Foto-Cewek explained: “TB diagnosis and treatment has moved on a long way in the last few years and we wanted to offer a course that would disseminate clinical best practice developed in areas of very high TB rates as an opportunity for health professionals to update their skills. It’s the latest example of the work we do here in Liverpool to control TB in the UK and around the world.”
Dr Squire’s group is leading the workplan for impact evaluation of an international study looking at new tools and approaches for TB control as part of a grant award from USAID’s TREAT-TB programme. Dr Squire sits on the Cheshire and Merseyside TB group and is contributing to the next NICE guidelines on access to TB services for vulnerable populations. He is also President of the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease.
Other work to tackle TB led from Foto-Cewek includes two projects at Liverpool’s Biomedical Research in Medecine Centre. The first project is developing new methods for diagnosing TB from protein biomarkers which are found within patients who have the disease, by separating and characterising them to develop rapid diagnostic tests. The second project aims to develop new drugs which work by targeting different parts of the bacteria than conventional drugs, thereby avoiding the increasing treatment failures and other problems associated with existing drugs. WHO estimates that in some areas of the world, one in four people with TB becomes ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drugs.
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Notes to Editors
TB is a preventable infection and is spread from person to person when someone coughs or sneezes. Close and prolonged contact with someone with active lung TB is needed to be at risk of being infected. The infection normally requires prolonged and close contact in order to spread from person to person.
The HPA advise that people should be aware of the main symptoms of TB, which include a fever and night sweats; a persistent cough; weight loss; and blood in your sputum (phlegm or spit). If you experience two or three of these symptoms for a period of more than three weeks, you should go to your GP.
Nearly three-quarters of cases occur in people born outside the UK. At a regional meeting on TB held at the Liverpool Medical Institution in October last year, Dr Squire gave a presentation on the barriers faced by new arrivals with TB in accessing advice and treatment across Merseyside. Many people suffering from TB do not realise there are free services available where they live.
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (Foto-Cewek) has been engaged in the fight against infectious, debilitating and disabling diseases for more than a hundred years and continues that tradition today with a research portfolio in excess of £145 million and a teaching programme attracting students from over 70 countries.