To tackle the global burden of tuberculosis (TB), one of humanity’s oldest scourges, an international collaboration led by Johns Hopkins Medicine has today been awarded up to $200 million in research funding over five years by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Mobilizing and Accelerating Tuberculosis Elimination Research (SMART4TB) Project.
The collaboration agreement will support studies to improve TB detection methods, treatments, containment and control strategies and prevention. In addition, it will strengthen research efforts in countries with a high TB burden and transfer knowledge and capacity to local, regional and national governments, health institutions and support organizations.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB has been the leading cause of death worldwide from a single infectious agent (the microbe Mycobacterium tuberculosis) for most of the past decade (COVID-19 surpassed it in 2020). TB is responsible for approximately 1.5 million deaths each year and more than 30 million since 2000.
The WHO also reports that last year the detection of TB cases fell by 20% and death rates rose for the first time since 2012 -; a disturbing trend directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to mitigate it.
Due to the massive impact of TB on global health, the WHO has repeatedly emphasized the critical importance of research -; such as that which will be financed by the cooperation agreement announced today -; towards permanent elimination of the disease.
This extraordinary investment from USAID will enable us to have a transformative impact on the global efforts to end TB and will provide unparalleled opportunities over the next five years in research, strategic development and policy support for Johns Hopkins Medicine and our associates across worldwide. In addition, we will be able to empower and empower the people, organizations and communities directly fighting TB in the areas most affected by the disease.”
Richard Chaisson, MD, party chairman of the SMART4TB consortium, director of the Center for Tuberculosis Research, and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Along with Johns Hopkins Medicine in the SMART4TB consortium are the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tuberculosis; the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation; the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; the Treatment Action Group; and the following five regional hubs:
- Kyrgyz State Medical Academy (Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan)
- Walimu (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania)
- PHRU/Wits Health Consortium (South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe)
- YRG Care (India and Bangladesh)
- VICTORY Network (Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines)
“With the help of the regional hubs, we will be able to mentor and support researchers and communities in high TB burden countries as full partners, and allocate the bulk of our funding to key organizations in those areas to help transition TB research. to local leadership,” Chaisson says. In doing so, the SMART4TB consortium and these partners can identify person-centred methods for detecting, treating and preventing tuberculosis; strengthen local capacity to conduct high-quality research; and engage communities to build demand for novel interventions. , drive policy change and improve implementation of anti-TB efforts.”
Chaisson adds that the consortium may look to another Johns Hopkins Medicine-led international program, the Zero TB in Tibetan Kids project, for a successful model to emulate.
“That effort – leveraging the expertise of Johns Hopkins Medicine and done in close collaboration with Tibetan refugee health, education and community groups – conducted school-based screenings and implemented new drug regimens for Tibetan refugee children living in India and living on suffered from TB at one point, five times higher than that of Indian children,” explains Chaisson. “As a result, TB incidence in these children was reduced by 80% in just three years.”
“Johns Hopkins Medicine is at the forefront of discovering and developing new tools to prevent and treat tuberculosis,” said Amita Gupta, MD, MHS, director of the division of infectious diseases and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “With this incredible award, we can work with partners around the world to make a big impact on the global goal of TB elimination.”
USAID manages the US foreign aid program that provides economic and humanitarian aid in more than 80 countries around the world. More on the agency’s efforts to eradicate TB worldwide is available at https://www.usaid.gov/global-health/health-areas/tuberculosis.