American Lung Association Highlights Current Efforts to Eradicate TB

(March 23, 2011)

Today, the American Lung Association recognizes World Tuberculosis Day by highlighting key research projects currently underway to better understand and eradicate tuberculosis (TB). Each year, more than 9 million people worldwide become ill with TB, and nearly 2 million people die. TB is predicted to kill millions more in the next decade.

"The American Lung Association was formed in 1904 by a group of doctors and concerned citizens to eradicate tuberculosis," said H. James Gooden, chair of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association. "We have not forgotten our roots. The Lung Association continues to support TB research to fight a disease that takes a heavy toll on the U.S. economy, with more than $1 billion in direct and indirect health care costs per year.”

TB is a contagious airborne infection caused by an organism called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. TB is spread through the air from one person to another.

Despite popular misconceptions that TB is a disease of the past, tuberculosis continues to pose a threat to public health. Worldwide, one-third of the total population is currently infected with TB. While current TB rates in the United States are the lowest recorded since national reporting began in 1953, the decline has slowed in recent years. The slowing decline of TB rates in the United States along with the widespread emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease highlight the need to maintain focus on eradicating TB through surveillance, treatment and prevention.

Since 2002, the American Lung Association has supported TB research with more than $2.2 million in funding. The researchers supported by the Lung Association maintain their focus on tuberculosis and go on to produce important future medical advances.

The following are examples of current TB research projects and their  expected outcomes:

Bouke Catherine De Jong, M.D., Ph.D.
New York University, N.Y.
Only a small number of people who become infected with the bacterium that causes tuberculosis will get sick themselves. It is not understood why some people get sick while the majority stays healthy after infection. One way to increase the understanding of immunity to TB is to study differences in “behavior” between different strains of TB and to search for bacterial genes that cause those differences. This study will aid development of a TB vaccine.

Evelina Guirado, Ph.D.
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Tuberculosis (TB) affects one-third of the world’s population and kills nearly 2 million people each year. But with resistance to current treatments on the rise and no reliable vaccine, new treatments are urgently needed. The researchers will study the interaction between the cell wall of the bacterium that causes TB and an immune cell called the macrophage. Information gained from this research should improve knowledge of TB infection and help identify new TB therapy.

Pushpa Jayaraman, Ph.D.
Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.
The organism that causes TB is able to establish chronic infection in humans and evade the body’s immune system defenses. Different cells of the immune system play an important role in defense against invading bacteria. The researchers will study how immune cells interact with one another to control TB infection and disease. The results of this research should contribute to knowledge needed to develop new treatments and vaccines for TB.

“We are confident the hard work of these dedicated scientists will lead to advances that help safeguard all Americans from TB—especially diverse and foreign-born populations who currently bear a disproportionate share of the TB burden,” said Gooden.

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungUSA.org.