Tempered optimism marks TB conference

13 July 2012 | Story by Newsroom

Professor Valerie MizrahiHopeful: Prof Valerie Mizrahi remarks that, amid the harsh realities of the country's disease burden, there was cause for hope at the recent national TB conference.

"By far the best conference in this series that I have attended."

This is how Professor Valeria Mizrahi, director of UCT's Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM) and its Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit, describes the 3rd TB Conference of South Africa, held recently in Durban. Mizrahi was just one of the UCT faces at the conference. Other UCT researchers who presented lectures or convened workshops included Professors Keertan Dheda, Mark Nicol and Robert Wilkinson, and Drs Hassan Mahomed and Thomas Scriba, all linked to the IIDMM.

According to Mizrahi, the mix of participants was particularly diverse, scientists, clinicians, nurses, technologists, epidemiologists, public health workers, advocates and activists from government, the NGO sector and academia attending - "all united in the fight against TB".

The focus at the conference was on novel diagnostics for TB, in particular, the Xpert MTB/RIF test developed by molecular-diagnostics company Cepheid. South Africa has adopted a phased roll-out of the test across the country, under the auspices of the National Health Laboratory Service.

"Discussions were infused with a sense of optimism created by advances in developing new tools for controlling TB (diagnostics, drugs and vaccines) and the purposeful and determined way in which the government is finally talking about taking an integrated approach to tackling TB and HIV," reports Mizrahi. "However, the optimism was tempered by the harsh reality of a massive disease burden, and the very significant obstacles that we face in addressing this problem," she adds.

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