University of Leicester eBulletin

Are We Winning Against TB?

October 2002
No 216

A TB expert at the University of Leicester has warned: “We are not winning against tuberculosis.”

Mike Barer, Professor of Clinical Microbiology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, said: “The Chief Medical Officer urged us to “get ahead of the curve” in his report on infection earlier this year. We are clearly behind the curve both on the global scale and in Leicester.

“Last year more than one and a half million people died of tuberculosis and we had the largest ever recorded outbreak of the infection in a UK school in Leicester. What we have learned about the tubercle bacillus over the last 120 years has rendered most cases of TB treatable and the disease controllable, so why aren’t we winning?”

Professor Barer will discuss this issue in this inaugural lecture Tuberculosis: A paradigm for the triumphs, failures and future of Clinical Microbiology on November 12, 5.30pm, Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Professor Barer will examine what contributions Clinical Microbiologists have made to these issues.

He said: “I will discuss how the specimens we get in my discipline, their processing and the issue of reports can affect the TB control effort.

“I will also discuss our work on the genetic blueprint (genome) of the TB strain responsible for the Leicester School outbreak. More than any other question I have worked on, these genomic studies have shown how, with the help of new technology, fundamental research can be rapidly fed into public health practice. We have established a testing system that enables us to determine rapidly whether strain of TB causing a newly diagnosed patient’s disease is or is not part of the an outbreak and colleagues have used this information to make practical decisions.

“This genomic work is a paradigm for the future of Clinical Microbiology. At last we are in sight of “real time” analyses and the flow from fundamental research to application can meet some of our needs. Will Clinical Microbiology rise to these opportunities and will tuberculosis be better controlled as a result?”

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact Professor Barer on 0116 252 2933.

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Last updated: October 2002
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