A high-powered collaboration between the University of Otago
and the oldest medical university in Burma is likely to shed
new light on the genetics of tuberculosis drug resistance.
An international partnership formed by Otago University and
the Burmese institution, known as the ''University of
Medicine (1)'', in 2012 has since developed in several
directions, including Tb-related research.
The 2012 agreement was the first of its kind between a New
Zealand university and a Burmese institution to collaborate
on research, training and capacity building, including in
infectious diseases and medical microbiology.
This month, Dr Thanda Tun, a PhD student from the Burmese
institution, arrived in Dunedin to work with Otago
microbiologist Prof Greg Cook and Otago postdoctoral fellow
Dr Htin Lin Aung, studying multiple-drug resistant
tuberculosis from Burma and elsewhere.
The three researchers will also work in partnership with Prof
John Crump and Prof Philip Hill, of the Otago University's
Centre for International Health.
Prof Cook said the recent establishment of a high biosafety
level laboratory at the Otago microbiology and immunology
department allowed researchers to work safely with organisms
such those causing tuberculosis.
Otago researchers could also undertake full-genome
sequencing, enabling them to ''do work that was not possible
a few years ago'', he added.
Dr Thanda Tun said tuberculosis was ''one of the world's most
pressing infectious diseases problems'', causing about 1.2
million deaths worldwide in 2010.
It was of ''great concern'' that the ability of national
tuberculosis control programmes in countries such as Burma to
treat and control the disease was threatened by the emergence
of resistance to drugs, she said.
The Otago research could lead to improvements in diagnostic
tests for drug-resistant tuberculosis.