Associate Professor Katharina Ronacher: stopping the spread of tuberculosis

Thursday 08 March 2018

Associate Professor Katharina Ronacher was awarded a Mater Research Strategic Grant for Outstanding Women on International Women’s Day.

“In working in South Africa on tuberculosis (TB) it came to light that people with type 2 diabetes are particularly vulnerable to developing TB. My research looks at why diabetes patients are more susceptible, the development of new therapies and assessing how big the problem is in Australia.

“Even though TB isn’t a major concern in Australia, the rates haven’t declined over the years despite good control programs.  In 2016 about 100 000 people migrated from high TB-burden countries and we estimate that at least half of them are infected with micro bacterium tuberculosis which could develop into active TB and be spread.

“Through my research project I will trace individuals who have come in contact with a TB patient and also screen them for type 2 diabetes. We are hoping to screen 600 people over four years. Many people are not aware they might have type 2 diabetes but if they do, they would benefit from an intensified treatment approach.

“My ultimate goal would be to develop a therapy that inhibits the progression from latent to active TB and through that inhibition, actually stop the spread of TB.”