ROCKVILLE, Md., March 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The tuberculosis epidemic continues to impact pockets of the U.S. population, according to a data visualization tool developed by the nonprofit biotech, Aeras. Launched on World TB Day, Aeras's TB Crisis Tracker illustrates how the TB epidemic continues to impact the U.S.
"TB's impact in the U.S. is but a fraction of what it once was, but the Aeras TB Crisis Tracker starkly demonstrates that TB is not a disease of the past, or limited to the poorest countries in the world, but rather one that can strike anywhere, in any population, and at any time," said Kari Stoever, Vice President for External Affairs at Aeras. "This tool provides a powerful reminder that a reported case of TB represents more than just a number on a disease ledger. Each TB case represents a human being, with a name, a face, a story, and a community at risk for exposure."
Often thought to be a disease of the past, TB none-the-less remains a disease of the present, both around the world and in the United States. TB kills 1.3 million people each year, and drug-resistant strains of the disease are making it more difficult and costly to treat. The number of new TB cases occurring in the United States is at an all-time low, but with an increasing proportion of domestic cases occurring among foreign-born residents, the domestic burden of disease is becoming increasingly linked with the global TB epidemic. Until TB is eliminated globally, it will remain a public health threat in the U.S., particularly among at-risk groups, including international travelers, health care workers, first responders and those who work with prisoners and the homeless.
The Tracker highlights a sampling of recent U.S. TB cases occurring in schools, hospitals and other settings that have generated media attention over the past year. Aeras's goal is to use this tool to raise awareness about the ongoing impact of TB and bring more transparency and attention to reports of TB outbreaks in the U.S.
The most effective way to stop an epidemic like TB is to prevent its spread. As with every other major infectious disease in the history of mankind, prevention through vaccination can be the most cost-effective tool in eradicating disease burden. Existing TB treatment and control programs are essential to controlling the disease and minimizing its health impact, but innovative new tools like an effective vaccine will be necessary to get ahead of transmission and drive game-changing reductions in disease burden.
"Most people I speak to in the U.S. think they are already vaccinated against TB," notes Ms. Stoever, "but what they believe to be a vaccine is more than likely just the skin test commonly used to check whether a person has been infected with the TB bacteria." The existing TB vaccine – Bacille Calmette–Guerin, or BCG – protects children from some severe forms of TB, but it is unreliable in preventing infectious TB in adolescents and adults – the primary transmitters of the disease – and is not recommended for use in the United States. New, effective TB vaccines would provide the ultimate solution to the epidemic, transforming the effort against this disease by protecting vulnerable populations in the U.S. and around the world from TB's devastating impact.
Scientific progress in TB vaccine R&D is well underway, and investments of more than $600 million over the past decade have produced a robust portfolio of TB vaccine candidates, with more than a dozen candidates currently in clinical trials. Partnerships and collaborations are crucial to advancing the development of these candidates: no one organization or institution can do this alone. Governments, researchers and industry partners from around the world have contributed to the progress that has been made to date, but mobilizing additional partners and resources will be essential to sustaining progress in the field. Expanded contributions from new and existing partners like the U.S. government can help ensure that new TB vaccines are developed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
View the TB Crisis Tracker at www.aeras.org/tbtracker.
Aeras is a nonprofit biotech advancing the development of tuberculosis vaccines for the world. In collaboration with global partners in Africa, Asia, North America and Europe, Aeras is supporting the clinical testing of six experimental vaccines as well as a robust portfolio of earlier stage candidates. Aeras receives funding from Australian AID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a range of other governments. Aeras is based in Rockville, Maryland; Cape Town, South Africa; and Beijing, China. www.aeras.org