UCLA researchers show HIV doubles tuberculosis caseload; Strong TB treatment programs could curb HIV's effect

UCLA researchers have discovered that the AIDS epidemic significantly amplifies tuberculosis (TB) outbreaks, often doubling the number and frequency of resulting TB cases. However, their research also shows that strong TB treatment programs can curb HIVs effect a result of particular importance in developing countries battling both diseases. The Journal of AIDS reported the UCLA findings in its Dec. 18 edition.

"Our study is the first to quantify the HIV epidemics effect on TB outbreaks and to show how high levels of TB treatment could actually halt this synergistic effect," said Dr. Sally Blower, principal investigator and professor of biomathematics at the UCLA AIDS Institute.

Blowers group created a computer-simulation model to calculate how HIV shaped TB outbreaks over two years. The scientists found that HIV epidemics substantially increase the frequency and severity of TB outbreaks by compressing TBs stages of development and accelerating its transmission to others.

"We modeled how HIV speeds up TBs progression from infection to full-blown disease," Blower said. "This telescoping effect is very important, because only people in the disease stage of TB can transmit it to others. Our predictions show that HIVs telescoping of TB causes the HIV epidemic to significantly amplify the TB epidemic."

Researchers estimate that one-third of the world is currently infected with TB. Normally, only 10 percent of these people advance to the contagious stage of the disease, while the rest of the infected populations immune systems keep the bacteria in check. This all changes, however, when someone infected with TB also contracts HIV.

"Its like lighting a fire," Blower said. "You get HIV and boom! Suddenly your TB is killing you."

"An immune system weakened by HIV can no longer fight TB infection," said co-author Dr. Peter Small, associate professor of infectious diseases at Stanford University. "This permits the TB bacteria to

Contact: Elaine Schmidt
University of California - Los Angeles

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