Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reality Check: Tackling TB

From CHEN PR Veep Randy Wambold...

Most of us who live in the West have a general sense that deadly diseases are far more prevalent in other parts of the world. But as is often the case, specifics can drive a realization far more powerfully than generalizations. If you’d asked me before I got up this morning how many people in the world are infected with TB, for example, after confessing my utter lack of qualification to hazard such a guess, I might have given a number in the tens of millions.

I would have been woefully, dramatically off base. In fact two billion people in the world are currently infected with TB (although, to be clear, the disease is not active in all of them). That’s 40-50 stadiums of 40,000 people each. Someone, somewhere in the world is infected with TB every 4 seconds and dies of it every 10 seconds.

The tragic, terrible irony? TB is a treatable, curable disease.

I was enlightened this morning by Dr. Dave Clark, executive director at the Aurum Institute for Health Research, during his keynote address at the Phase Forward International Users Conference in Las Vegas. Dr. Clark and the Aurum Institute and its partners and backers are providing hope in this otherwise very bleak scenario. The Aurum Institute is an independent medical scientific organization for the treatment of and research into epidemic and other diseases in developing countries. Its committed employees work with South African miners (among whom TB is especially rampant, with 80% infected) to study the effectiveness of drug therapy in treating TB. Dr. Clark today discussed Aurum's implementation of Phase Forward’s InForm electronic data capture solution to enable the collection and analysis of the massive amounts of data – ultimately, 60,000 South African gold miners are expected to participate – the large study will generate. Additional details are available here.

With talented, able individuals like Dr. Clark and the Aurum Institute joined by world-class researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Tuberculosis Research, and backed by organizations such as the CREATE initiative (launched by Dr. Nelson Mandela in 2004) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, there is reason to hope that the tide of this awful disease will be reversed.

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