Before COVID-19, tuberculosis was the most devastating infectious disease, affecting more than 10 million people in 2019 alone, and killing more than 1.5 million people annually.
Today, on World TB Day 2021, the World Health Organization is calling on the global health community to honour promises made to accelerate the End TB Response, and its flagship initiative, “Find. Treat. All.”
The TB research community are urging that the ongoing COVID-19 mass testing and vaccination campaigns and the unprecedented financial investments, rapid research and development, collaborative science, and innovation in delivery systems put in place to combat the pandemic be leveraged for other global health priorities, including Tuberculosis.
Targets for 2022 set as part of the End TB response include diagnosing and treating 40 million people with TB, reaching 30 million others with preventive treatment, and pouring a minimum of USD $2 billion a year for better science, better tools, and better delivery.
Tuberculosis a syndemic feeding on social inequity and poverty
“The clock is indeed ticking,” says Dr. Yossef Av-Gay, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and an associate member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, referencing this year’s World TB Day theme. “Especially in these times of COVID-19.”
Pointing to a commentary published in The Lancet Microbe on March 19, Dr. Av-Gay highlights the authors’ contention that COVID-19 and tuberculosis now pose “a deadly, dual threat—a syndemic that feeds on social inequities and poverty.”
The global tuberculosis epidemic is worsening because of COVID-19, he adds, but not because the numbers are going down. Reduced notifications represent a massive setback to progress towards reaching the WHO targets.
CIHR-funded research aimed at identifying new treatments for TB
CIHR is highlighting its investments in Dr. Av-Gay’s LSI-based TB research program today, and its focus on the unique capability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to infect, replicate and hide within macrophages, the front-line cells of our immune system. The Av-Gay team’s approach identifies novel drugs that target key processes and pathways that enable Mtb to infect human macrophages and evade innate immune response in humans.