Gumbo leads global group scouting for new tuberculosis drugs

By Remekca Owens

Dr. Gumbo, M.D.

Dr. Tawanda Gumbo, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, is helping to lead the global initiative against tuberculosis through a new appointment in the World Health Organization’s Stop TB Partnership.

This highly contagious, airborne disease affects about 9 million people each year, most severely in countries that include South Africa, India, and Vietnam.

“Three percent of all deaths in many countries are because of tuberculosis. That’s more than car accidents, war, or other violence combined. It’s still a major killer,” Dr. Gumbo said.

Dr. Gumbo will co-chair the Stop TB Partnership Working Group on New TB Drugs. The Stop TB Partnership was formed in 2001 under the World Health Organization’s leadership to reduce the number of global deaths from tuberculosis, develop new drugs for treatment, and provide care to some of the most affected groups, particularly those in poverty-stricken countries.

Dr. Fiemu Nwariaku, Associate Dean of the Office of Global Health at UT Southwestern, underscored the individual and institutional importance of Dr. Gumbo’s leadership role.

“This appointment reflects the significant effort by Dr. Gumbo to reduce death and disability from tuberculosis in the U.S and overseas,” Dr. Nwariaku said. “It further recognizes our overall effort to make important institutional contributions to academic efforts that reduce health disparities worldwide.”

It has been more than 40 years since development of a new tuberculosis drug. This, among other factors, spurred the Stop TB working group’s plans to have three new drugs approved for clinical use by 2015. It also plans to develop a shorter, four-month treatment regimen that is readily available for patient use.

The lung disease, often curable, affects 10,000 to 11,000 Americans each year, with the largest number of reported cases in Texas, California, New York, and Florida. In Texas, 1,385 cases were reported in 2010, a rate of 6 per 100,000 residents. While anyone is susceptible, tuberculosis most often affects diabetics, patients with kidney failure, health care professionals, and HIV-infected patients.

UTSW established the Office for Global Health in 2010 to direct and develop training and research initiatives with partners around the world. It also serves as a catalyst for the development of the medical center’s global partnerships that lead to the generation of knowledge and innovations in health care.

“I am honored to be asked to co-chair with such a luminary of tuberculosis research as Dr. Jacques Grosset (of the Center for Tuberculosis Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine),” said Dr Gumbo, appointed to a three-year term. “This honor represents recognition of the tuberculosis work on drug development and the new collaborative approaches here at UT Southwestern among several scientists.”

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Dr. Nwariaku holds the Malcolm O. Perry, M.D., Professorship in Surgery.

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