Major breakthrough in fight against world's deadliest disease thanks to Kiwi scientists

The AM Show 14/10/2021

WATCH: NZ based scientists have had a major breakthrough in the fight against one of the deadliest diseases known to man kind - Tuberculosis.

While the world is enveloped in a COVID trance, Kiwi scientists have been working away on a potential cure and further treatment on the worlds number one deadliest disease, Tuberculosis. A disease even deadlier than COVID-19.

"It might surprise you to know that in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, there were more people who died worldwide from tuberculosis than COVID-19," University of Otago biochemistry professor Kurt Krause told The AM Show on Thursday. "It's still out there, it's big and it's a huge global problem."

TB kills around 1.5 million people every single year. Last year, it was closer to 2 million. The World Health Organisation state that this has been increased thanks to lockdowns and other COVID related disruptions to critical treatment.

The current vaccine for TB only takes effect in children rather than adults. Most cases coming up in India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa. 

Treatment has been a difficult and lengthy process since the disease was first discovered.

"You've got to take these drugs for six months," said Dr Krause. "There's no good TB vaccine, and TB has eluded creating a good vaccine for decades now, so we're stuck with treatment." 

Dr Krause's team have developed a potential pathway to a cure, a major breakthrough that could save countless lives.

"We know this will work based on working on the TB bacterium in the test tube."

It's been six years of "hard slog" to reach this point, Dr Krause said, and there's still a long way to go. But the end result could save millions of lives a year.

"A third of the world's population is thought to be infected with the tuberculosis bacteria - there's about 6 million cases a year and 1-2  million people die. COVID has of course captivated us for the last couple of years, but this would be almost on par with COVID in terms of the immediate impact, and then long-term impact, it's actually a bigger deal than COVID."

Catch The AM Show every weekday from 6am on Magic Talk.