UGA professor tracks TB with social networks

A professor from the University of Georgia will study how tuberculosis moves from person to person in Uganda to aid researchers in understanding how common respiratory illnesses transmit worldwide.

Christopher Whalen, a professor at the University of Georgia's College of Public Health, recently received a $2.82 million National Institutes of Health grant to explore how social relationships speed the transmission of TB through a community. TB is a respiratory disease that is similar to whooping cough and influenza in that it can travel short distances through the air, Online Athens reports.

"(Tuberculosis) is a model for other pathogens," Whalen said, according to Online Athens.

Whalen's research will document relationships and friends outside the home to determine if any of the social networks help to spread TB.

"(We hope to) answer the question: What's the probability of transmission in the household and the community?" Whalen said, according to Online Athens.

After meeting with health care and political leaders to gain access to the country, researchers will try to recruit people receiving treatment for TB. The scientists will visit their villages and homes, survey their family members, and ask about recent visits with friends and family. By understanding the transmission of TB, the researchers hope to learn more about other respiratory infectious diseases and to further track TB before it spreads.

"Tuberculosis doesn't care about political borders," Whalen said, according to Online Athens. "All it needs to do is get on an airplane going to America and 10 hours later (it's here)."

Nine million cases of tuberculosis were reported in 2010, with most of them recorded in countries in Africa, Asia and South America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Organizations in this story

National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

Get notified the next time we write about National Institutes of Health!