Spain should increase investment in tuberculosis R & D

The Spanish government was encouraged to invest in tuberculosis research and development (R&D) as part of its policy of international cooperation in health. "Spanish government should support and fund the tuberculosis (TB) research and development (R & D) because we don't have adequate health tools to face the TB pandemic globally: more effective tools are needed. Research and development is essential part of international cooperation policies," said Laia Ruiz Mingote from Planeta Salud, who had a poster discussion on this issue at the XVIII International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Vienna, Austria. Read more

Why Spain? "Spain has a historical relationship with tuberculosis (TB) being one of the most TB high burden countries in Europe” said Laia. TB anywhere is TB everywhere, so Spain, being rich and powerful nation, should invest in a public health cause that does affect its own people too with increased immigrants in the country" said Laia. "No matter where the people came from, they should have access to proper healthcare they need" added she.

"The most commonly used TB diagnostic tool is sputum microscopy, which is more than 100 years old" said Laia. It detects only half of the cases of TB in patients tested, and is particularly ineffective for diagnosing TB in people living with HIV (PLHIV). As a consequence, many TB-HIV co-infected patients die without ever receiving a diagnosis. Without proper treatment, approximately 90% of HIV-positive patients die of TB within months of infection. "That is why we want the Spanish government to fund the TB R&D" said Laia.

The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which is more than 85 years old, provides some protection against severe forms of TB in children but is unreliable against pulmonary TB, which accounts for most of the worldwide disease burden. BCG vaccine is not recommended for infants known to be infected with HIV, due to increased risk of serious BCG-related complications. "This is another reason why we want Spanish government to fund the TB R&D" said Laia.

An advocacy strategy was implemented to include TB research and development in the agenda of key stakeholders in order to achieve political and economical support from the Spanish government, said Laia.

"We organized seminars in 2008 and 2009, and the third seminar will be held this year soon, bringing together 40 or so stakeholders to push TB research and development agenda" said Laia. They have come up with toolkit for politicians, media, organized official hearing in the parliament, among other ways to mount pressure on Spanish government to come ahead and fund the TB R&D.

As a result of sustained advocacy in Spain, the Spanish government has declared that it will explore ways to support and fund the TB research and development (R &D). "Our next target is to obtain a formal commitment by end of this year 2010" said Laia.

Bobby Ramakant – CNS
(The author is supported by the Stop TB Partnership and PANOS Global AIDS Programme to write for PANOSCOPE from the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. The above article was published first in PANOSCOPE on Thursday, 22 July 2010)  

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Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand
Elites TV News, USA
Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI)