Haiti is one of the top seven countries that contribute to the spread of tuberculosis (TB) cases within the United States. In 2014, 66 percent  of TB cases in the US occurred from foreign-born persons from Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, India, China, Guatemala and Haiti.

TB is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. An infection happens when a person inhales small droplets of bacteria released from the coughs of an infected person. The inhaled bacteria then usually attack the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body such as the brain, spine, bones and kidney.

Upon infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the body develops an immune response (ability to fight against infection) that is sometimes capable of controlling the infection. In general, 10% of persons who are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis may develop active disease (symptoms commonly include weeks to months of fever, cough, chest pain, weight loss, and shortness of breath) over the course of his or her lifetime.

Multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB infection in Haiti has become a big concern since the earthquake in 2010.

Before the 2010 earthquake, Haiti had the highest tuberculosis disease rate in the Americas and the western hemisphere. About half of the tuberculosis cases in Haiti occur in the Port-au-Prince region.

Experts estimate that there are nearly 23,000 new cases of TB disease in Haiti every year.  Poverty, lack of education and limited access to health care contribute to Haiti’s ranking as the Caribbean country with the highest rates of TB disease.

In New York City, Haiti is also among the top countries that contribute to the spread of TB cases within the five boroughs. In 2015, 82 percent  of TB cases were among foreign-born persons, (a 20% increase between 2014-2015) from China, Mexico, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Sudan, Nepal, Cameroon, Saudi Arabia and Haiti (New York City Bureau of Tuberculosis Control Annual Report, 2015).

Renowned TB investigator and physician Dr. Joel D. Ernst, MD and his laboratory team at New York University School of Medicine (NYUSOM), have been working hard to increase the knowledge and understanding of human immunity and  latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). With funding given from the National Institutes of Health, they are conducting a research study with the hope of finding out why some people who are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis get sick while others remain healthy.

People who are infected but do not have symptoms of TB disease or do not become sick are considered to have LTBI. The immune system controls suppresses the bacteria during latent tuberculosis infection therefore a person may not develop symptoms or become sick during latent infection.

By studying different types of human white blood cells (including T cells) from persons with LTBI in vitro (a process or reaction occurring in a test tube or culture media), the goal is to learn the traits and function of these white blood cells to discover more about how the human immune system responds to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. These are important steps that can be used to find different ways to prevent or treat TB disease.

Healthy persons with LTBI are invited to donate blood for the NYUSOM TB study.

By donating blood, you are helping to make a difference in the search to find new prevention methods, diagnosis, treatments and vaccines for TB disease. Participation is simple; after completing a brief interview about your health status and donating a small amount of blood, (about 10 tablespoons), you will receive cash.

Your health information and participation in the study will remain private and the volunteer process only takes about 30 minutes.

For more information about the New York University School of Medicine TB study and to donate blood, contact Research Coordinator Lisa Zhao, at Lisa.Zhao@nyumc.org, or by telephone at 212-263-6411. http://nyulmc.org/tbstudy

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