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It's Not Amy's Fault: A Call To Invest In the Fight Against TB

24/03/2017 11:58

Meet Amy: a Sussex law graduate, an activist, a tea drinker, a cat lover. Amy is also a survivor. When she was just a university student, Amy battled one of the most deadly diseases in the world: tuberculosis (TB).

After suffering through 12 months of horrible symptoms and relentless tests, Amy was diagnosed with pulmonary TB. Because Amy's diagnosis took so long, her TB was already at an advanced stage.

Despite intense treatments with side effects like searing joint pain and hair loss, Amy's disease continued to ravage her left lung, then the right. She ultimately had to have surgery to remove her entire left lung.

After the operation, Amy continued treatment and finally started putting on weight and getting better. But the nightmare didn't end when her treatment was finished. Two years after completing the last round of TB treatment, Amy was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Her doctors attributed it to the "severity and prolonged nature of the illness," but Amy has her own theory: she blamed herself for what happened. She even heard a doctor tell a whole hospital ward that it was her own fault for getting so sick.

But it's not Amy's fault. This highly infectious airborne disease can strike anytime, anywhere. It only takes a cough or a laugh to send TB into the air, and only a few microscopic TB bacteria to infect someone. This is particularly alarming in the UK, where the TB rate continues to be among the highest in Western Europe.

It's not Amy's fault that it's often hard to diagnose TB, and even people with access to the best care can face lag times between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis.

It's not her fault that TB is notoriously difficult to treat, and that even our best treatment options are long, debilitating and nearly toxic.

And it's certainly not Amy's fault that investment in TB research and development lags so far behind the urgent need for better treatments, innovative diagnostics and new vaccines.

The annual funding gap for TB research and development is about US$1.3 billion. And out of the limited funding that is available, only about 17% goes toward vaccine research and development, even though a new, effective TB vaccine is the only way to eliminate TB for good.

In fact, a vaccine that could prevent adolescents and adults (the primary transmitters of TB) from acquiring, developing or spreading the disease would be the single most cost-effective tool in mitigating this epidemic--and the ultimate game changer.

The reality is that we have many promising scientific avenues worthy of exploration when it comes to TB, but they remain untouched without sufficient resources. That's certainly not Amy's fault. And it doesn't have to be ours.

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