World TB Day : 24 March 2014

World TB Day is celebrated on 24 March every year. It was on 24 March 1882, Dr Robert Koch, a German Physician, presented his groundbreaking lecture on the etiology of tuberculosis to the Physiological Society of Berlin. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905 for his work.

In the initial clinical trial on human beings, Koch used self as guinea pig & injected tuberculin to himself and suffered a strong malaise, vomiting, fever, shivering and other side effects that lasted a few days. Subsequent trials, to arrive at the optimum doses, were done on Hedwig Freiberg, wife of Koch. Trials on tuberculin were hastily completed within a short time span of less than 12 months, at the behest of German Emperor William II. It was rumoured that the Hoechst Company purchased the exclusive rights to manufacture tuberculin for one million gold Marks, which was clearly a strong motivating factor for Koch to unduly hasten up the trials. As it turned out, tuberculin failed as a therapy  Victory over tuberculosis, also termed as white plague, has been claimed several times in vain. Koch’s dream to control tuberculosis is not fulfilled until today. The disease remains a major health threat for humankind and requires new control measures.

In 1952, Prof Selman Abraham Waksman, a Ukrainian-born American inventor/ biochemist/microbiologist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in recognition “for his discovery of “streptomycin,” the first antibiotic active against tuberculosis.” Later Waksman had to concede a share of scientific credit for the discovery to Albert Schatz, his PhD student & author of the first Paper on Streptomycin, in which Waksman was the secondary author. Schatz’s protest claim on Nobel Prize was turned down by Nobel Committee on the ground that he was merely a lab assistant to Waksman, an eminent scientist.

Waksman’s apprehension that TB may become drug resistant has been vindicated. Today the disease has passed through the phase of being multi-drug resistant (MDR) to extreme drug resistant (XDR), rendering the cure beyond the reach of millions. Working Group on new TB drugs has reported development of new drugs at various stages of development, from inception to reporting results of clinical trials.  Pharmaceutical giants viz. Janssen Therapeutics, Bayer, Sanofi-Aventis, Otsuka, Pfizer, Sequella, Qurient, Novartis, Glaxo Smthkline & Astrazeneca etc. areaccelerating the development of large portfolio of new drugs with innovative practices & cutting edge technology. Not for profit initiatives; by NIAID, IDRI, TB Alliance, Hans Knoell Institute & Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as several American Universities; are in ground-breaking partnership to reduce treatment time from 6-30 months to just one month. Pasteur Institute, US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Yeshiva University (Israel) are top three leaders in TB Research.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with philanthropy of 111 Million Dollars, is second to US public funding of 169 Million through NIAID. India’s public funding, at 8.7 Million Dollars, is just 8% of Gates Foundation.

Between 1700 and 1900, Mycobacterium tuberculosis accounted for one in seven of all deaths in the world. TB is a global pandemic killing 1.7 million every year, even now. India is world’s highest TB-burden country with 2.2 million TB patients. Average TB patient loses 3-4 months working time & up to 30% of earnings.

Louis Braille & Kamla Nehru died of TB. Hitler also suffered from TB. TB was said to be one of the probable causes of death of famous mathematician Ramanujam.

Theme of the World TB Day 2014: Reach the three million”

A TB test, treatment and cure for all.

These three million people are those, who developed TB in 2012, but were missed by National Health Systems, the world over.

How World TB Day is celebrated?

World TB Day is celebrated by health organizations/agencies/institutions/ NGOs to raise awareness about TB  by organizing campaigns/activities viz. debates on TB prevention/cure, award ceremonies for organizations involved in the prevention/fight against TB, photo exhibitions showcasing images  to raise awareness of TB, charity events for fund raising required to control TB. Active participation is required from groups/ people/ communities/government agencies to work together.

Contributed By Col. B. K. Dhagat
Joint Director
People’s Group of Institution, Bhopal