Tuberculosis and Nontuberculous Mycobacterium
Tuberculosis (TB) is a worldwide epidemic that kills approximately 1.7 million people each year. Given that TB is transmittable and that global travel and migration has increased, this international problem remains of great concern to Americans.
Tuberculosis is of special importance to the American Lung Association. Our organization was the first voluntary health agency in America, founded as the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis by a group of doctors and concerned citizens. Over a difficult 50-year fight, the Lung Association played a critical role in developing and funding increasingly effective weapons to prevent, detect and treat the disease, and TB is now largely eradicated in the US. Today we continue to fund research with these same goals.
Many people who are infected with the bacterium that causes TB, called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), do not go on to develop active TB - their immune system protects them. But those with immune systems damaged by AIDS or other illnesses may develop active TB.
Awards & Grants
The American Lung Association is supporting research seeking to identify genes that contribute to TB susceptibility, which will improve understanding of the body’s response to this deadly disease.
It was recently discovered that Mtb secretes nanometer‐sized particles called membrane vesicles that likely contribute to Mtb survival and lung disease. One study is looking at factors that regulate the production of Mtb membrane vesicles during infection, which could lead to a new potential target for new TB drugs.
Another major problem in the treatment of TB is the development of resistance to standard drugs. We are funding a project that is investigating whether a novel protein essential for the growth of TB bacteria and might be an ideal drug target.
In addition, TB is difficult to diagnose in children and treatment delays can lead to severe and fatal forms of TB. One of our researchers is seeking to understand missed diagnosis and treatment delays in pediatric tuberculosis, in order to prevent this problem from occurring in the future.
Lastly, people who are infected with Mtb are prescribed antibiotics to reduce the risk. Since they feel well and have to take the medication for many months, as few as one-third complete treatment. A research project we are funding will investigate whether daily text message reminders improve compliance with TB treatment.