UGA researcher receives $2.82 million TB grant

A University of Georgia College of Public Health researcher has received a five year, $2.82 million grant to examine the transmission of tuberculosis in African urban environments.

Christopher Whalen, a professor in the University of Georgia's department of epidemiology and biostatistics, will conduct his study in conjunction with Ugandan researchers. The study will be funded by the National Institutes of Health. The principal investigator in Africa will be Noah Kiwanuka, a professor at Makerere University, the UGA News Service reports.

"We have nine million new disease episodes of tuberculosis each year," Whalen said, according to the UGA News Service. "Even though we don't face the same problems with it in the U.S., it's important to remember that infectious diseases don't regard political borders, and what is over there could show up here."

The research will focus on trying to determine where transmission of TB occurs in a community and what kinds of human interaction increase the chances of spreading the disease. Whalen's past research has previously involved closed environments such as TB transmission inside the home.

"Think about the other extreme, where most of the transmissions are occurring in the community," Whalen said, according to the UGA News Service. "Well, then what? How do we control it in a larger community? No one really knows how best to intervene. We have a lot of antidotal evidence, but we need to better understand transmissions, and this study is intended to shed light on the mechanisms of transmission."

Whalen will go to Uganda twice a year during the grant to monitor the progress of the research and to give the UGA team a first-hand view of TB's impact on the African population.

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