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Stopping a deadly killer
Date:3/19/2008

PITTSBURGH, March 19 To develop new strategies to control tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease that infects one-third of the worlds population and kills almost two million people every year, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research has received an $11.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will enable Pitt researchers to use new imaging technologies to study TB to shorten and simplify its course of treatment, potentially improving survival and curtailing the global TB epidemic.

One of the most challenging issues in treating TB and stopping its spread is the length of time it takes to adequately stem the infection, said JoAnne Flynn, Ph.D., principal investigator of the grant and professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Current drugs are available, but we dont fully understand how or why they work. TB treatment must be continued for at least six months to be effective, placing an undue burden on those who are infected often from the poorest and most disadvantaged countries.

According to Dr. Flynn, TB is difficult to control because the germs that cause the infection hide from the immune system in small tissue nodules called granulomas, enabling the infection to reactivate years, and even decades, later. Although for the most part TB is a curable disease, patients must adhere to treatment long after symptoms have faded. This proves challenging in many regions of the world where medication is not readily accessible. Indeed, an inadequate or incomplete course of treatment is the major factor that causes drug-resistant TB strains to develop. These strains are alarmingly high in many countries around the world.

Current medications for TB were developed more than three decades ago, said Dr. Flynn. To create significantly shorter and simplified approaches to treatment, we must improve our understanding of this disease and how curre
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Contact: Clare Collins
CollCX@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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