Mycobacterial diseases, such as tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), Buruli ulcer (Mycobacterium ulcerans), Mycobacterium avium complex infections, and those caused by other environmental mycobacteria, constitute a significant global public health concern, especially in developing countries. The dimensions of the problem are enormous: One-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and approximately 87 percent are infected with non-tuberculosis mycobacteria. Each year, between two and three million people die from tuberculosis – a person dies every 20 seconds – or become handicapped and experience diminished quality of life when infected with environmental mycobacteria, such as M. avium. In addition to impacting public health, the economic effects of these diseases are devastating.
Coordinated by Drs. Luiz Bermudez, Anna Jolles, and Michael Kent the mycobacterial diseases research program is supported by grants from the NIH, Gates Foundation, and the NSF. Specific research topics are focused on the pathogenesis of Johne’s disease and Mycobacterium avium infections, development of therapies for tuberculosis, and the ecology of microparasite-macroparasite interactions involving mycobacteria.