The goal of eliminating the top infectious disease killer in the world among Māori patients has earned University of Otago researcher Professor Philip Hill $250,000 from the Health Research Council to undertake a feasibility study.
Tuberculosis (TB), a serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs, is the world’s leading cause of death. Although New Zealand has a low rate of the disease, new cases continue to occur and half of New Zealand-born TB patients are Māori.
Professor Hill says it’s likely there’s a large reservoir of dormant or latent TB infection in older Māori which will continue to reactivate to infect more people.
“This reactivation can be avoided through preventive treatment and we hope that identifying and treating latent TB infection could play a major part in the elimination of TB among Māori.”
With the funding, he and his team will assess whether it is feasible to conduct a large-scale skin test survey for latent TB infection, with a specific focus on those who test positive across urban and rural Māori.
Hill hopes the study will be the first step towards characterising the infection among Māori, so strategic intervention with preventive treatment can be considered.
Hill has also partnered up with organisations including the Centre for International Health, Otago University’s Centre for Hauora Māori Associate Professor Joanne Baxter and Waikato District Health Board’s Te Puna Oranga service, led by Dr Nina Scott.
This year the Health Research Council received 31 applications for the research grants and gave approval to nine totalling $2,230,458.