24 March 2009 - The global fight to control the spread of Tuberculosis (TB) infection is under the spotlight today with World Tuberculosis Day and of increasing concern is the growing rate of people infected by TB bacteria that is resistant to common drug treatments.
Over one-third of the world's population is estimated to be infected with the TB bacteria, and approximately 2 million deaths and 9 million new cases of TB disease are reported each year. TB spreads between an infected person and others through bacteria-containing droplets coughed into the air by the infected person. Despite this common mode of transmission, TB is preventable and curable.
If infection with the TB bacteria is detected early and treated effectively, people will not develop disease or be infectious and will eventually be cured.
Australian researchers are behind the development of a diagnostic test that enables the accurate and early detection of TB infection.
Cellestis, an Australian biotechnology company, is commercialising the QuantiFERON® technology for the early diagnosis of TB and other diseases worldwide.
“Despite it being an airborne disease, TB is preventable and curable” says Dr Jim Rothel, CSO of Cellestis. “Looking only for people with the active, infectious form of TB is not going to eradicate the disease as by the time they are found they have already spread the infection to others. To make significant inroads we need to identify those people who carry the bacteria but are not yet infectious and then provide them standard treatment to ensure that they are cured and thus break the cycle of transmission. Our QuantiFERON-TB Gold test is highly accurate at detecting people who are infected and thus provides a key tool for enhanced control of TB worldwide. But apart from the tools – which we have - we need the political will and finances to make TB control, and perhaps eventually eradication, a reality.”
In the developing world, TB control is being further hampered by so-called extremely drug-resistant (XDR) TB strains, resistant to all of the first-line drugs, which have recently been identified. Add these to a scenario where HIV/AIDs or other immune-compromising conditions exist and the threat is further magnified.
“TB remains a major crisis for every part of the world, including Australia. Far from being a disease of the past – as perhaps many people in Australia believe – without improving and enhancing control activities – we run the risk of future resurgence of the “white plague” of over a century ago”, said Dr Jim Rothel.
The major target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the global Stop TB Partnership is to cut TB deaths and prevalence in half by 2015. This strategy aims to ensure that "all TB patients benefit from universal access to high-quality diagnosis and patient-centred treatment" and "to support the development of new and effective tools to prevent, detect and treat TB" (WHO website, www.who.int).
Honouring the date in 1882 on which Dr Robert Koch first presented his discovery of the TB bacteria to a group of doctors in Berlin, World TB Day is a time to intensify the resolve to diagnose and cure TB. This year's World TB Day campaign, entitled, "I am stopping TB", is a continuation of the 2008 theme and encourages everyone from patients to community service volunteers to health care workers to be pro-actively involved in stopping TB.
Cellestis is a listed Australian biotechnology company commercialising QuantiFERON® technology for diagnosing TB and other diseases worldwide. QuantiFERON-TB Gold tests for the presence or absence of a protein (gamma-interferon) produced by a patient's white blood cells after stimulation with specific TB proteins. The test has received regulatory and policy approvals in the USA, Japan, Europe and elsewhere. The Company operates through subsidiaries in the USA, Europe and Australia.
For more information, visit www.cellestis.com or contact:
Cellestis Pty Ltd
+61 3 9571 3500