October 23, 2009

VUMC joins global consortium to fight tuberculosis

VUMC joins global consortium to fight tuberculosis

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is participating in an international consortium to improve treatment of, and hopefully eliminate the scourge of, tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is one of the world's most persistent and deadly diseases.

It kills 2 million people a year. Two billion people — one third of the world's population — are infected with the TB bacterium.

The Tuberculosis Trials Consortium recently received renewal funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its goal is to shorten the duration of treatment of tuberculosis among people with active disease who can spread it to others and among those with “latent” infection, to prevent them from developing TB disease.

“Both could have a huge impact on decreasing the global TB burden,” said Timothy Sterling, M.D., professor of Medicine and principal investigator at the Vanderbilt site, which will receive $7 million from CDC over the next 10 years — $510,000 in the coming year.

The grant enables Vanderbilt to expand collaborations with the Metro Public Health Department, Meharry Medical College, Metro General Hospital and the Tennessee Department of Health.

Sterling said Vanderbilt also will collaborate with “one of the preeminent universities in South America,” Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. Eduardo Gotuzzo, M.D., is principal investigator of the Lima site.

Resistance to existing TB drugs is a major and growing problem around the world, including in the United States.

If the duration of therapy was cut from the current six to nine months to three or four months, “that would allow for a higher completion rate … and less relapse and less drug resistance,” Sterling said.

Sterling's co-investigators include:

• Vanderbilt research nurse Amy Kerrigan, R.N., M.S.N.;

• Metro Health Director William Paul, M.D., M.P.H., and Alisa Haushalter, D.N.P., R.N., director of Metro's Population Health Bureau;

• Jon Warkentin, M.D., M.P.H., director of Tennessee's TB Elimination Program, and state Laboratory Services assistant director Teresa Smith; and

• Vladimir Berthaud, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Meharry.

Gotuzzo's co-investigators in Lima include Humberto Guerra, M.D., Carlos Seas, M.D., and Carlos Zamudio, M.D.
Vanderbilt researchers have participated in the international TB consortium since 1996, when the Nashville subsite was established by Douglas Kernodle, M.D., and colleagues at the Metro Public Health Department and the Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.