Brief Project Overview

TB Research Perspectives

A Brief Project Overview

Tuberculosis has afflicted humanity for thousands of years. In 2009 there will be more cases of TB and more TB deaths than in any other year in recorded history. The last effective test for diagnosing latent tuberculosis was developed in 1891. The last vaccine for the prevention of TB was developed in 1921. The most recent first-line drug class for the treatment of TB was developed in 1967, more than 40 years ago. Humanity is now facing multiple-drug-resistant and extremely-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis for which effective treatment may be vanishing. According to the World Health Organization as of March 2009, the total number cases on record for the most recent year for which we have complete statistics is over 5.5 million. All of this makes a review of the science of combating this ancient enemy an urgent priority. Compare this with the attention paid to the recent outbreak of “Swine Flu” or H1N1.

We hope to place this and the renewed relevance of the classic research into the prevention and cure of tuberculosis into historical perspective. This project will be carried out with the assistance and cooperation of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology of the Department of Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, Dr. Joel Ernst, Director.

The principle components of the proposed website are:

I. The 40 research papers written between 1890 and 1980 comprising the most important “classic” scientific papers on the disease

II. A section for people directly concerned with the disease: researchers, clinicians and patients; using interactive social Web technologies, this is intended to be a forum for all concerned parties as well as a repository of writings and graphic materials of general as well as scientific interest

III. A timeline combining a graphic representation of the highlights of the recent human experience of the disease from the point of view of patients, public policy and science

IV. Links to other related efforts

No website presently exists combining the science of tuberculosis research and its human impact. By making the classic TB research papers available in a single place—as a first step—will be an important contribution to a nuanced understanding of the disease for researchers. Beyond that, we wish to embed this research into the context of the present growing threat of the disease. We can add further dimensions by tracing the historical path we have taken. This will include the great advances of the last century, the false belief that the disease had been defeated, and the missteps in not adequately prioritizing the treatment of the disease in areas where people have been most susceptible to infection. This has taken us to where we are today, with new strains threatening to overwhelm our defenses.

The recent outbreak of “swine flu” or H1N1 as reawakened many to the dangers of a dangerous infectious disease. However H1N1 is a minor threat, at the moment, compared to the magnitude of the danger of tuberculosis in its new forms. We hope our website will address these concerns, encourage research and broaden our general understanding of the relationship of humanity to one of its oldest and most dangerous enemies.

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