Colorado State University tuberculosis researcher Anne Lenaerts represented tuberculosis research on World TB Day, March 24, an honor bestowed on only three people in the world. Dr. Lenaerts was the North American representative for the event, coordinated by the World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership.
World TB Day is devoted to spreading awareness about the global TB epidemic and those doing innovative work to combat it. About 2 million people die each year of tuberculosis. Dr. Lenaerts, a member of the Mycobacteria Research Laboratories, has spent her career fighting tuberculosis, including searching for new tuberculosis drugs and developing laboratory tests and systems to better and more quickly test the potential of new drugs.
Dr. Lenaerts’ work, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, is described by the Stop TB partnership as being “at the epicenter of the search for new TB drugs.”
“We must find new drugs – at least three to four new compounds – that are completely effective against drug-resistant strains, including extreme resistant strains,” Dr. Lenaerts said. “It’s imperative that those drugs be potent so that we can decrease the treatment time needed – being on antibiotics for two years is difficult for most patients, particularly for those who live in rural, underdeveloped countries where access to drugs is a challenge.”
While formerly thought of as a disease that was all but eradicated, tuberculosis is resurging throughout the world. In 2008, more than 9 million new cases of TB were diagnosed, a historic high. Some highly fatal strains of the disease, such as XDR-TB – or extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis – continue to emerge and spread.
World TB Day is designed to encourage public awareness of the need to find treatments for tuberculosis, develop funding for research and find new ways to work together globally for a cure. The Stop TB Partnership has developed a global plan for commitment of $1.1 billion for TB research in the United States in 2010, but needs public donations to overcome a more than half-billion shortfall in the United States and a $2.4 billion shortfall worldwide.
For more information on tuberculosis research at Colorado State University, visit the Mycobacteria Research Laboratories at www.mrl.colostate.edu. To view Dr. Lenaerts’ profile, visit the Stop TB Partnership website.