TB, the disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, has a long and close relationship with humans, causing outbreaks of disease particularly in communities of high density. There is a fine balance between latent and active disease. The bacteria can proliferate and cause the lung to degenerate and release infectious particles, causing spread of the disease by aerosol infection. The bacteria can also lie dormant - a sub-population believed to maintain their presence in the host in a controlled manner, evading the immune response until favourable conditions prompt it to emerge and switch to an active form of the disease.
Studies in mycobacteria over the decades has focused on in vitro and in vivo culture. That is, growing the bacteria in artificial media under controlled conditions, or in animal models in which the immune response to the invading bacteria can be studied. Both of the methods are limited as they give us no information about the state of the disease in the lung granuloma - the site of bacterial colonisation unaffected by the immune response of the host. Trying to dissect the mode of action of such bacterial sub-populations is a huge challenge which needs to undertaken as a collaborative effort, combining clinical observation with scientific probing of bacteria at these different levels.
The CBTBR - Centre of Excellence in Biomedical TB Research - was instituted in 2004 as a joint unit co-hosted by the South African Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF)
It had been located partly at the then Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit (MMRU) at The University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) and partly at the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at The University of Stellenbosch (US).
More recently the The Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been incorporated into the CBTBR.
World Breaking News on tuberculosis at Google News
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