Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

That “ancient” scourge, TB

Did you know that one out of every three people is infected with the bacteria that cuase tuberculosis (TB)?

There’s this mistaken impression that TB is no longer a problem, that ‘consumption’ as it was once called, long ago lost its power to kill. But in fact, 125 years after Mycobacterium tuberculosis was identified, the disease kills nearly 2 million people a year.

24 March 2007 is World TB day and partly in recognition of that, we’ve put together a special supplement about TB in our March issue.

News from the special is chock full of statistics, features and profiles of key players. One feature article exposes a power struggle between scientists who work with HIV and those who work with tuberculosis (TB), which is undermining the fight against both diseases.

TB is the leading cause of death among those infected with HIV and in some African countries, about 60% of those with TB are also HIV-positive. Yet, the two communities continue to work separately, diagnosing and treating one disease without taking the other into account.

One sore point for TB scientists is that TB research gets less than a tenth of the money allotted to HIV/AIDS each year. Existing drugs and vaccines for TB were developed decades ago so the infrastructure and expertise for TB need to be built up from scratch. But without enough money, says another article in the special, researchers are struggling to do the research needed to find new drugs and vaccines.

Other news articles describe the public-private partnerships that are helping to solve this funding crisis and the new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests in the pipeline.

The special also carries scientific commentaries about the threat of extensively drug-resistant TB, which is virtually incurable, and about the scientific challenges in developing new TB drugs.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this special. Tell us what you liked—and what you didn’t like—about our coverage.

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