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New center to focus on treating, preventing TB

Mar. 14, 2013, 10:32 AM

Vanderbilt University has established a tuberculosis center to expand and extend efforts to improve the treatment and prevention of this often fatal disease here and around the world.

The Vanderbilt Tuberculosis Center is directed by Timothy Sterling, M.D., who holds the David Rogers Professorship in the Department of Medicine. It is administratively housed within the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health.

Timothy Sterling, M.D.

It will provide a focal point for collaborative research conducted in conjunction with the Metro Nashville Public Health Department and Tennessee Department of Health, and with international partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Tuberculosis “is an enormous global burden,” said Sterling, whose research has significantly advanced treatment and prevention of the highly infectious bacterial disease that primarily attacks the lungs.

Although tuberculosis infection rates are falling, there were nearly 9 million new cases of TB worldwide in 2011, and 1.4 million people died from the disease, according to the World Health Organization. More than 10,000 new cases and about 500 deaths were reported in the United States that year.

Vanderbilt already participates in TB research in Latin America through the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium, supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Caribbean, Central and South America (CCASA) network, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Projects in Africa are under way in Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, and new projects are planned in China, India, Vietnam, and in South Africa, through the KwaZulu Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV in Durban.

Closer to home, the new center has forged alliances with the Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health, and  the infectious disease divisions in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics.

While National Institutes of Health funding has been a mainstay of the research, a priority for the new center is diversifying its funding portfolio to include foundation support.

The center also will mentor junior faculty, fellows and students to integrate TB into their global health research.

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