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Johns Hopkins-led consortium gets $200 million to fight tuberculosis

Aug. 4, 2022 Updated Thu., Aug. 4, 2022 at 12:38 p.m.

In this picture taken on March 22, 2022, a doctor checks Gautam Kamble's chest x-rays, who is diagnosed with tuberculosis, during a routine consultation at the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic, which treats people with drug-resistant tuberculosis, in Mumbai.    (Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
In this picture taken on March 22, 2022, a doctor checks Gautam Kamble's chest x-rays, who is diagnosed with tuberculosis, during a routine consultation at the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic, which treats people with drug-resistant tuberculosis, in Mumbai.   (Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Meredith Cohn The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins Medicine has received $200 million in federal funding to head up a consortium aimed at treating and stemming spread of one of the world’s oldest and deadliest scourges: tuberculosis.

The money from the U.S. Agency for International Development, to be spent over the next five years, will boost research into diagnostics, treatments, transmission control and prevention of TB, a bacterial infection that normally infects the lungs.

The disease has a massive global impact, killing an estimated 1.5 million people a year. The World Health Organization reports the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted detection efforts, and case reports were down 20% last year, though death rates rose for the first time since 2012.

The international collaboration is part of the effort to eliminate the disease, Johns Hopkins officials said. The findings will be given to local and national governments, health institutions and support groups.

“This extraordinary investment from USAID will enable us to have a transformational impact on global efforts to end TB and will provide unparalleled research, strategic development and policy support opportunities for Johns Hopkins Medicine and our collaborators around the world over the next five years,” said Dr. Richard Chaisson, who is helping head the consortium called SMART4TB.

“Additionally, we’ll be able to strengthen and empower the people, organizations and communities directly fighting TB in the areas most affected by the disease,” said Chaisson, also director of the Center for Tuberculosis Research in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Partners in the effort are the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tuberculosis; the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation; the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; and the Treatment Action Group.

The World Health Organization reports countries with the highest rates of TB include India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa. They account for two-thirds of new cases.

While rates are far lower, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the disease continues to be found in this country. There were 7,860 cases reported in 2021 for a rate of 2.4 per 100,000 people. Up to 13 million are estimated to be living with latent TB, where people have no symptoms and can’t spread the infection but can go on to develop the disease, especially if they have weakened immune systems.

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