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World TB Day at the MRC CTU at UCL

22 March 2016

To mark World TB Day, the MRC CTU at UCL is co-hosting an annual tuberculosis (TB) symposium with UCL and the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine on 23rd March 2016.

The symposium will run in conjunction with the launch of a special TB series of the Open Access journal BioMed Central Medicine, guest edited by Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar, Prof. Tim McHugh, Dr Marc Lipman and Dr Helen Fletcher. The journal series includes contributions from researchers Dr Patrick Phillips and Dr Angela Crook based here at the MRC CTU at UCL, and Dr Patrick Phillips will also be speaking at the symposium. Prof Andrew Nunn will also be giving a talk at another TB symposium organised by the Francis Crick Institute on 24th March.

World TB Day 2016, held on 24th March, aims to raise global public awareness of TB, the infectious disease responsible for the most deaths globally. The disease is caused by a germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis which affects the lungs and can be transmitted from one individual to another.

In 2013 alone, an estimated 9 million people developed active TB which in turn led to the death of approximately 1.5 million people around the world. An estimated 3 million people are not being correctly diagnosed, treated or officially registered by their respective national TB programmes. The proportion  of missed cases has not changed over the last seven years and, as those overlooked will continue to infect others, a major effort to eradicate TB is needed more than ever.

Chosen to commemorate the date on which the causative agent of TB was discovered by Robert Koch in 1882, World TB Day brings together health organisations, research institutes, governments and international partners across the world promoting the need to accelerate global efforts to end TB.

The benefits of such cohesive efforts are already apparent, with an estimated 43 million lives saved through TB diagnoses and treatment between 2000 and 2014. But there is still work to be done.

One of the biggest challenges of treating TB is the length of time people need to take treatment for. Our current TB trials are looking at ways to shorten treatment for both drug-sensitive (STAND, TRUNCATE-TB) and multi-drug resistant TB (STREAM). We are also about to start a trial looking at whether we can shorten TB treatment for children with minimal disease (SHINE).