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Researchers look for new tuberculosis treatment (1/21/96)

Thanks to a $296,000 grant from San Antonio's Kleberg Foundation, the foundation and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio are joining forces to develop new treatments for tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) is the No. 1 infectious killer in the world. Eight million people have this deadly disease and three million die from it every year. TB is an infection that slowly and progressively destroys tissue, starting out in the lungs eventually attacking major organs.

In the United States, there has been a resurgence of TB starting in 1986. One hotbed of growth has been in the South Texas area, which includes a large Hispanic population. "Hispanics get more infected with the TB micro organisms that are resistant to treatment," says Robert A. Clark, MD, chairman, department of medicine at the Health Science Center.

Why more Hispanics than other ethnic groups contract resistant TB is the focus of a new study at the Health Science Center. The Kleberg Foundation's grant will allow Dr. Clark and his department to search for new treatments for TB, particularly for those patients who are immune to current medications.

According to Dr. Clark studies indicate that Mexican born Hispanics are five times more resistant to the anti-TB drug rifampin than Anglos. And Hispanics born in the United States are 3.2 times more resistant than Anglos.

Dr. Clark adds, "Many of the technical components are in place for this research. For example, there is a recently developed technique for rebuilding a human immune system in a mouse, making promising results readily translatable to human tuberculosis." This is good news for the mounting impact of the drug resistant TB problem in South Texas.

The research project is expected to last about a year and Dr. Clark is hoping to further the research with other grants.

Contact: Myong Covert (210) 567-2570