Consumption. The White Plague. Scrofula. Tuberculosis (TB) has been known by so many names over the ages, and those names reflect just how long it’s been around and just how misunderstood it’s been. It’s killed kings and generals, playwrights, and poets.
TB still sickens 10 million people every year and kills 1.5 million – even though it’s easily prevented and can be treated. It’s unusual because it needs to be treated even if the person infected has no symptoms at all.
And even though it’s an ancient disease, TB keeps evolving into new and ever more unpleasant forms. Now, multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB infects half a million people around the world each year, according to the World Health Organization. A third of these MDR TB infections go undetected, and that means there are tens of millions of people who do not get the treatment they need and who can go on to infect others.
Dr. Jeffrey Tornheim has been studying ways to test people to quickly and easily tell if they’ve got a drug-resistant form of TB infection and need special medications to treat it right away. Quick information can help stop the spread of these dangerous forms of the infection and can ensure that patients and health professionals don’t waste time, money, and medicine with the wrong treatments.
In this episode of One World One Health, Dr. Tornheim, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as well as at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, chats with host Maggie Fox about why TB is so hard to fight and how genomics can make that fight a little easier.
Dr. Jeff Tornheim, M.D., MPH, is a member of the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Dr. Tornheim graduated with a B.A. in International Development and Economics from Brandeis University, received his medical and public health degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine and a clinical fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Prior to completing his medical education, he worked on strengthening health systems for returning refugees to South Sudan, studied the epidemiology of pneumonia and diarrhea in Kenya with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) International Emerging Infections Program, studied adherence to latent tuberculosis treatment at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the Bureau of TB Control, and volunteered in an East Harlem free clinic. During his public health degree, he evaluated the impact of water policy on rates of pediatric diarrhea as well as Chagas Disease epidemiology and treatment in Bolivia through the Fogarty International Clinical Scholars Program. His interest in clinical outcomes for underserved populations has led to research, teaching, and clinical practice in Bolivia, India, Kenya, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United States.
His current NIH-supported research explores the application of whole genome sequencing, drug-level testing, transcriptional and metabolomic profiling, and biomarker assessments to improve health outcomes in the treatment of adults and children with drug-resistant tuberculosis in India.
Hosted and written by Maggie Fox
Special guest: Jeffrey Tornheim
Produced and edited by Samantha Serrano
Music composed and sound edited by Raquel Krügel