The world’s deadliest disease

Tuberculosis is the deadliest infectious disease and one of the top ten causes of death in the world. At the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio Texas, scientists are working towards a vaccine and hopefully, someday, a cure for the disease.

TRANSCRIPT

Tuberculosis is the deadliest infectious disease and one of the top-10 causes of death in the world.

At the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, scientists are working towards a vaccine, and hopefully someday, a cure for the disease.

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Tuberculosis is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the world today.

It's caused by a bacteria called micalbacterm tuberculosis, and it's transmitted human to human.

So, the cough of someone with active lung tuberculosis can allow for the spread to other humans if they're in close contact.

South Texas in particular has a higher than normal average rate of tuberculosis, and in fact, we have a free-standing tuberculosis hospital in the city to manage some of the highly drug-resistant cases of tuberculosis.

Nothing to be alarmed about, but certainly to be knowledgeable about these diseases being present, not only in a world stage, but also one can see these locally and regionally.

Diabetics are at increased risk to a variety of infections, and tuberculosis is one of them.

This is one of the reasons I think we're seeing more tuberculosis in south Texas.

Researcher Joanne Turner plays a key role on the Texas Biomed team as she studies why elderly patients are more prone to tuberculosis infection.

So, I am trying to understand why, as you get older, you're more likely to get an infection, any infection.

So, I think we all know as we grow older, we're more likely to get flu, the common cold, and tuberculosis is exactly the same.

As we grow older, changes happen in our immune system, and those are cells in our bodies that normally would fight infection.

So, they don't work as well.

They grow older, just like us, and sometimes their responses are slower, and sometimes they're changed, and they often do the wrong thing, and then that allows that bacteria to start growing in our bodies and causing an actual illness instead of being controlled by those cells.

Texas Biomed scientist Jordi Torrelles shows me maps of the U.S. and Texas which detail recent tuberculosis infections, including those in San Antonio and Bexar County.

Torrelles explains that immigration, overseas travel, and population density can all contribute to increased incidence of tuberculosis in large cities.

One of the many things that people think is probably immigration.

It's not only immigration.

There are also traveling overseas and it's also clustering of people in small areas.

So, big cities like, for example, Dallas, has a lot of TB in that area.

Also Houston has a lot of TB, and of course, San Antonio.

Actually, San Antonio has the only TB hospital.

So, being here is really important.

We have great facilities.

So, our institute's known for bio-containment, which means we're used to working with infections that need special controls so that we can work safely.

So we have that here.

And we also are in a state that has a lot of tuberculosis, which means that we can go out and actually take blood samples from humans and study their blood, and that also links in with the fact that we have a TB hospital here, which gives us better access to patients, and we have really good facilities and resources here as far as having a team working together.

It means that we can do science quicker, so we can make a finding and I can talk to my colleagues, tell them that finding instantly without having to wait for it to be public knowledge, and then we can move and accelerate quicker and get to a cure quicker.

One needs to get a handle on determining who will develop latent infection?

Who will get sick with TB?

Who needs therapy today?

Who needs that vaccine?

And the work we've been doing in our laboratory is really uncovering those molecules and determinants that can predict when a human is more or less susceptible, and we hope this research will lead to, for example, a new personalized medicine approach, diagnostic platform to identify individuals who are at particular risk for tuberculosis.