Tuberculosis has plagued mankind for millennia. While rare in the UK today, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (pictured) continues to claim many lives, particularly in Africa, where it commonly kills patients with AIDS. Globally, a new human infection arises every minute. While only 10% of these infections will develop into disease, without treatment patients have a one in two chance of survival. One hundred years ago the Medical Research Council (MRC) was established to tackle TB. When the first antibiotic cure, streptomycin, was discovered by Albert Schatz in 1943, the MRC set up large-scale randomised clinical trials to assess its effectiveness as a treatment. While the antibiotic killed M. tuberculosis the bacteria proved sufficiently resourceful to rapidly evolve defences against this line of attack. Today, despite the development of many other antibiotics, resistance to drug treatment proves the single greatest challenge to eliminating TB once and for all.
Written by Brona McVittie
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