TB Research Perspectives

Project Manager: Carl Glenn

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One page project summary

We are proposing the development of a website presenting the classic papers in tuberculosis research. This will be the first time these papers, written over the span of 90 years are collected in a single location for study. The website will then, at a second project stage, collect and develop ancillary material of interest to clinicians, patients, policy advocates as well as researchers. We are proposing this effort at a moment when outbreaks of multiple drug-resistant and extremely drug-resistant strains underscore the renewed relevance of the historic research.
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.
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; a URL for the site, http://TBresearch.med.nyu.edu has been reserved.
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 20th 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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"This year will be the year with the highest number of TB cases and TB deaths in recorded history. Despite such sobering statistics, there is a paucity of new tools with which to combat tuberculosis:

1891 - last effective diagnostic for latent tuberculosis
1921 - last vaccine for tuberculosis
1967 - last new first line drug class for treatment of tuberculosis

"Moreover, the expanding HIV/AIDS epidemic is also fueling the spread of TB as well as drug-resistant forms of TB."
— Center for TB Research Laboratory, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

We hope this site will prove useful for those currently seeking a cure for tuberculosis to show where the research paths have taken us thus far. We also hope that contributions of clinicians as well as patients will add further dimensions of insight in this effort.

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