The University of Otago's Centre for International Health has
received a grant of about $NZ500,000 through the European
Commission (EC), to research links between tuberculosis (Tb)
and type 2 diabetes.
This is the centre's biggest external grant in the nearly
five years since it was founded, suggesting the centre was
gaining momentum and attracting growing international
recognition, officials said.
Centre co-director Prof Philip Hill said it had been a
"special" achievement to have gained part of 6 million
($NZ9.46 million) awarded to the new overall research project
by the EC.
"We couldn't apply on our own; we needed to be part of a
consortium and offer something that is not easily available
within the EU."
The centre's "previous field studies in Tb" and its "growing
collaboration" with Padjadjaran University, in Indonesia, had
Prof Hill, who has an extensive record in Tb research in
developing countries, will be part of the multidisciplinary
consortium, linking field sites in four Tb-endemic countries
- Romania, Peru, South Africa and Indonesia - that were
experiencing a rapid growth of type 2 diabetes.
Through the overall project, known as Tandem (Tuberculosis
and Diabetes Mellitus), Otago researchers will collaborate
with leading laboratories in Germany, UK, Netherlands and
Further funding is also coming to Otago centre-co-ordinated
research through a $250,000 Health Research Council
scholarship recently awarded to Dr Ayesha Verrall, an Otago
Early next year, she will begin PhD research in Indonesia,
supervised by Prof Hill.
This year, throughout the world, nine million people would be
diagnosed with Tb and "up to 1.4 million will die from it",
Prof Hill said.
Just under 400 million people were living with diabetes and
about 10-20% of new cases of Tb were also diabetic.
Diabetes was clearly a "significant player" in increasing Tb
disease, presumably through an effect on the immune system.
The fact that the number of people worldwide with diabetes
was increasing "at an alarming rate" would adversely affect
global Tb control, he said.
Prof Hill, who was part of the team that designed the study,
said the consortium wanted to test the hypothesis that
screening and management could be greatly improved and
simplified, with a major impact on the control of Tb and
Through the multi-site study, researchers would end up with
1500 to 2000 Tb cases to study - including about 400 at the
Indonesian site - and, of the overall total, about 350 to 400
would also have diabetes.