Tuberculosis (TB) rates in and around Cape Town are among the highest in the world, particularly in high density populated areas. The Aerobiology and TB Research Unit at the Masiphumelele Research Centre seeks to understand the biology of the airborne transmission of TB from one person to the other.
The Aerobiology and TB Research Unit is actively engaged in research at laboratory, clinical and public health levels to increase understanding of the TB epidemic and to seek solutions to this overwhelming health problem facing South Africans. Developed in late 2013 with funding from the South African Medical Research Council and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this multidisciplinary project focuses on understanding TB transmission.
This groundbreaking study is designed to investigate the source of TB infection. Attention is given to the social network and environmental conditions that allow for sufficient exchange of air between an infected person and a new host. The research team observes and measures the concentration of aerosolised mycobacterium particles within breath that is expelled from infectious TB patients. They also explore organism adaptation to particle size and environmental stress. Creative efforts are required to sample, investigate and understand airborne biological components.
This research seeks to provide new information to improve TB control strategies in the Western Cape and to encourage greater emphasis on the prevention of TB transmission at community level. TB is the most common opportunistic infection, transmitted through the air. Transmission of this disease is suspected to be particularly high in crowded and poorly ventilated areas with people breathing infected air from others. Despite South Africa’s large antiretroviral treatment programme, TB remains a major cause of death among individuals living with HIV.