This years World TB Day readings come from today's Globe and Mail:
Today, on World TB Day, Canada can - and should - celebrate its leadership in fighting tuberculosis abroad. In addition to the $30-million Canada invests in international TB control each year, it recently committed $450-million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
TB control is a sound investment that provides health and economic benefits. The Copenhagen Consensus 2008 diseases-challenges paper noted that a $19-billion investment in TB control could generate a net gain of $1.7-trillion in wealth in the global economy by increasing the number of healthy workers.
What works for the global economy can work for Canada. Canada, however, is failing to reduce TB rates right here at home. Without new efforts, Canada will fail in its commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving domestic TB rates by 2015.
First Nations are among the most vulnerable for this preventable disease, with infection rates 29 times higher than the rest of the population - rates that have not decreased since the 1990s.
Canadian researchers are about to embark on a quest for an answer that could make treating latent tuberculosis a lot easier and, it is hoped, more frequently successful.
Led by McGill University's Dick Menzies, they are on the verge of launching an international clinical trial to see if latent TB can be treated as effectively with a drug regime that takes less than half the time and may pose a lower risk of serious side-effects than the current standard of care.
"The study is very much needed," says Michael Gardam, director of the tuberculosis clinic at Toronto Western Hospital, who was involved in a pilot study but is not taking part in the clinical trial.
The clinical trial, which is being funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will be announced today in Montreal.
Nearly 6,000 people with latent (inactive) tuberculosis will be enrolled in five cities across Canada as well as in the West African countries of Benin and Guinea, and Brazil, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
Half will receive the current regimen used to try to cure latent TB infection, once-a-day treatment with the drug isoniazid for nine months. The other half will receive the drug rifampin for four months.
Both groups will be followed for 28 months from recruitment to see how many go on to develop active TB - which should tell if rifampin is as efficacious as isoniazid. Dr. Menzies says the study will take about seven years.