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New Initiative to Fight TB Spread in Asia-Pacific
Source: radioaustralia.net.au
Source Date: Friday, March 22, 2013
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Created: Mar 26, 2013

A new multi-national research centre has been set up to stop the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in Australia, and reduce its impact on the Asia-Pacific region. The Centre of Research Excellence in TB Control (TB-CRE), has opened at the Centenary Institute in Sydney. The $2.5 million initiative brings together researchers in six countries to improve TB control, with the goal of eliminating the disease in Australia and beyond by 2050. The respiratory disease once killed more Australians than cancer. Australia now has one of the world's lowest rates of tuberculosis. Dr Bernadette Saunders, a chief investigator at TB-CRE, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the disease remains highly prevalent throughout Asia and the Pacific. "TB is a major problem throughout the Asia-Pacific region - in China, in Vietnam where we've been working for some time now, in Papua New Guinea, in Indonesia," she said.

 

In Papua New Guinea, more than 14,500 new cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed every year, and in most cases no treatment is available. Some of the worst cases are treated in Australia. Dr Saunders says health authorities "need to work together as a region" to ensure people have access to medication and continuous treatment. "It's interruptions in medication and not being able to take the drugs continuously for the six months course that can lead to the development of drug resistance," she said. "And drug resistance TB is much harder to treat." She says treatment of multidrug-resistant TB usually takes about two years of medication to treat, and the side effects can be "quite significant." "So we really make sure that people can get medication, and that they take their medication for the entire six months when they have primarily tuberculosis so they don't develop drug resistance. "Certainly we hope that this initiative will provide expertise in the development of new medications, new therapies, new policy to implement to try and reduce tuberculosis among our Asia-Pacific neighbours." Tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs, is transmitted via the air and caused by strains of mycobacteria.

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