When TB takes no prisoners
Mention the word infection and the average person is likely to come back to you with the common cold, measles or food poisoning. But many forget the more scary strains – like MRSA, HIV and polio. The ones that make flu look like a walk in the park.
TB (or tuberculosis if you want to be formal) is another example. This serial killer of millions worldwide is caused by a bacterium and is known to inflict fever, loss of appetite and the coughing up of blood onto its victims. Subtle it ain’t. And if it wasn’t for the American biochemist, Selman Waksman, who vowed to do something about it, you can easily boost that figure higher.
It was Waksman’s research of organisms that live in soil that led to the discovery of Streptomycin, which proved the breakthrough. And as pats on the backs go, the Nobel Prize he received in ‘52 for all his efforts can’t be bad.
For a while we thought we had the disease cracked – but not for long. Nowadays TB is making a comeback and the World Health Organisation predicts that between 2000 and 2020 nearly one billion people will be infected with TB, 200 million of them will get sick and 35 million people will die from the disease. So the search for more effective treatments and vaccines are ongoing and more important than ever.
Take the medical researchers studying ancient bones in the city of Jericho as we speak. Their plan is to study the 8,000 year old bones and understand why the locals were susceptible or resistant to TB.
It definitely beats a normal 9 to 5.
If fighting TB in the future sounds like you, these careers tick the boxes:
- A microbiologist or immunologist working in a team to develop a vaccine against TB
- A biochemist or pharmacologist designing and creating new chemical compounds to kill TB bacteria and overcome drug resistance
- A clinical research associate co-ordinating clinical trials of new medicines
- A medical epidemiologist analysing the effects of disease on a population and identifying risk factors for its spread
- A biomedical scientist analysing patient samples for the presence of TB
- A senior health professional working for the World Health Organisation agreeing guidelines for treatment and care of patients with the disease
- A health promotion/education expert providing health information to help control spread of the disease