The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appointed the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity at the University of Sydney as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Tuberculosis (TB). The WHO "End TB Strategy" (2016-35) articulates a visionary framework for accelerating the decline of TB incidence, mortality and its socio-economic impact as a part of its Global Tuberculosis Programme.
As a designated Tuberculosis Collaborating Centre in the Western Pacific region, the Institute will provide the collaborative framework for research that is essential to support the global TB elimination strategy and more specifically to reach the End TB targets in our region; including Australia. Research collaboration will include strong linkage with National TB programmes in Vietnam and the Pacific, as well as international groups such as the Korean Institute of Tuberculosis, the Japanese Research Institute of Tuberculosis (RIT/JATA) and the McGill International TB Centre in Canada.
The research we are undertaking spans from new insights into the biology of TB through to the scale-up of innovative new strategies to detect and prevent TB. The Collaborating Centre will share new knowledge about TB to benefit patients and communities across the Indo-Pacific region.
The centre aims to organise its work into two distinct themes. The first is Find and Treat, which is centred around developing efficient active TB case-finding strategies, reducing cross-border spread, particularly into Australia, introducing new models of care and influencing policy. The second is Prevent, which focuses on household contact and community screening processes, developing more robust public health responses, and improving the efficacy of vaccination.
The centre will be headed by Professor Ben Marais and Associate Professor Greg Fox.
Dr Marais is a paediatrician and paediatric infectious diseases specialist with an interest in global health. He is internationally renowned for his work on childhood and multi drug-resistant (MDR)-tuberculosis (TB). He serves on the executive committee of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Tuberculosis Control and is co-director of the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity (MBI).
Dr Fox is a respiratory physician, epidemiologist and clinical trialist committed to using research to improve health care among disadvantaged populations. His research focuses on detection and prevention of tuberculosis (TB) ranging from community-wide cluster randomised trials and clinical trials to meta-analysis and evidence-based policy development. He is a NHMRC Career Development Fellow and leads a number of NHMRC-supported trials relating to tuberculosis and lung disease in Vietnam.
This Collaboration Centre designation comes just over a year after University of Sydney researchers developed a potentially more effective TB vaccine candidate, using a genetically altered form of the well-known BCG vaccine.