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World TB Day: MHRP Research Physician Examines Overlap in HIV and Tuberculosis

March 24, 2016
Dr. Elizabeth Harausz discusses her recent collaboration with the WHO on drug resistant pediatric TB guidelines

Tuberculosis recently overtook HIV as the top infectious disease killer world wide, and in 2015, 1 in 3 HIV deaths were due to TB. With a research background in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, MHRP research physician Dr. Elizabeth Harausz is well positioned to battle these entangled epidemics.

In November, Dr. Harausz traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to advise the World Health Organization on their guidelines for the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis in children. 

“Until now, the pediatric recommendations have been based on data from adults,” said Dr. Harausz. “Kids have been ignored in treatment and diagnostics, and they need their own guidelines because they get different types of the disease and need different doses of medicines.”

Dr. Harausz’s research interest in tuberculosis stems from the infectious disease fellowship she completed at Case Western Reserve University, where she worked alongside some of the leading researchers in adult and pediatric TB. During her fellowship she participated in trainings in Romania and Bangladesh, regions where incidence of the disease is high and discrimination challenges education and treatment efforts.

“We were scheduled to hold a meeting at a hotel in Romania, and when the hotel found out it was about tuberculosis they wouldn’t let us hold it there,” said Dr. Harausz. “It’s stunning how much discrimination there is surrounding TB.  I think the reasons for this are multifactorial, but frequently TB is just considered a disease of the poor and marginalized.”

To help battle stigma, Dr. Harausz has contributed to several tuberculosis education initiatives, such as a coloring book to help children better understand the disease.

Following her infectious disease fellowship, Dr. Harausz worked for the Desmond Tutu TB Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, where she managed an ambitious meta-analysis project examining treatment and outcomes of more than one thousand pediatric patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. She is currently working on the first paper to come from that analysis.

Dr. Harausz joined MHRP in August of 2015 and will expand the program’s portfolio of tuberculosis research. Some of her upcoming work will include a protocol examining novel methods to screen HIV positive people for TB and an evaluation of the TB treatment program at MHRP’s Nigeria site, and an examination of the AFRICOS TB data set.