Meet the Filipina scientist studying ways to end tuberculosis worldwide

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Tuberculosis, or TB – an infectious disease that affects the lungs and other parts of the body — remains as one of the top 10 causes of deaths worldwide.

When somebody with pulmonary TB coughs, TB bacteria are expelled in the air in tiny water droplets. These droplets can remain floating in the air for several hours, making it possible from someone nearby to inhale them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 2 billion people or ¼ of the world’s population are infected with TB.

In 2018 alone, the World Health Organization said about 10 million people globally suffer from TB bacteria — called mycobacterium tuberculosis, the second leading cause of death resulting from a single infection.

Eight countries accounted for 66% of new TB cases.

Eight countries, including the Philippines, accounted for 66% of the new cases.

In the Philippines, in 2018 alone, data show that 591,000 people fell ill with TB, and 26,000 of them died.

Among those trying to end this serious worldwide health problem is Filipina scientist Kamela Charmain Ng.

“Efforts to control TB are continuously hampered by drug resistance, misdiagnosis of drug-resistant TB strains, and administering inappropriate treatment regimens to patients.”

Ng is a research fellow at the Harvard Medical School, studying how genomic markers in a TB bacteria can help identify which type of treatment would work for specific patients.

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