HealthTalks@swissnex: Tuberculosis?

The event HealthTalks@swissnex: Tuberculosis? brought together a panel of researchers from Switzerland and Brazil to present a panorama on this lingering and challenging threat. Tuberculosis is a deadly disease that still kills people today and according to the Word Health Organization took 1.7 million lives in 2017. The aim of this gathering was to foster discussion on this topic and create a space where people could come together, share knowledge and create alliances to face this disease.    

The first speaker was Dr. Kátia Edmundo, who is the Executive Director of the Center for Health Promotion. She talked about different strategies to tackle the disease in slums and poor areas that the Center has accomplished, such as the “Camelô da Saúde” – a small stand created with the intent of bringing about awareness and important information on the topic in a way and place that people in affected regions could easily obtain.

Dr. Daniela Brites from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, who was the second speaker, presented the origin and genome of the bacteria. She explained in layman terms how the disease spread throughout the globe, that some bacterias that cause tuberculosis are genetically different from one another and also how some of them have become multi-resistant to drugs, which makes the disease trickier to counteract.     

Dr. Paulo Basta from the Sergio Arouca National Public Health School (ENSP/Fiocruz) was the last speaker of the event and presented his study of the disease within indigenous people. He shared interesting information on how precarious areas where some tribes live contain the precise conditions where the bacteria can easily spread. In addition to that, he talked about the way indigenous people interpret the disease as spirits and that some treatment provided by tribe members actually prove to be efficient.

The moderator was Dr Jardel Kratz who is a Research and Development Manager at DNDi (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative) Latin America, the leading institution in medicinal chemistry activities focused on tropical diseases. Dr. Kratz mediated the open discussion that followed the presentations with the attendees, which contained other specialists in the area, students and a patient infected by a multiresistant variant of the tuberculosis who has been fighting the disease for 5 years.

The gathering proved to be a place of open discussion on the subject and many expressed their contentment in seeing such a distinct initiative taking place, as they thought the subject of tuberculosis would never get this kind of positive attention and consideration among specialists on the disease with so many complementary perspectives and a clear intent to bring about analysis, awareness and thus, change.