UNT HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AWARDED $5.3 MILLION GRANT FROM CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded a $5.3 million, 10-year grant to fund a site of the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. The research site will be under the direction of principal investigator Stephen Weis, D.O. Award announcements were made today at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuberculosis Trials Consortium meeting in Atlanta.
The grant will be a joint collaboration of the UNT Health Science Center, Tarrant County Public Health Department and Texas Department of Health.
Dr. Weis’ team will work to expand the number of patients in tuberculosis(TB) clinical trials. Currently trials are ongoing in persons with tuberculosis who have drug resistance and co-infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Trials are also exploring new methods of TB treatment where medications are taken only once weekly. With more patients, the study can explore new therapeutic approaches to managing drug resistant TB patients and enable the team to complete studies. In the future, the consortium plans to conduct trials in the search for a more effective TB vaccine.
Dr. Weis has been conducting TB research for 15 years in the Tarrant County Health Department. He also works as an internist in the department of internal medicine at the UNT Health Science Center, and as the director of tuberculosis services for the Tarrant County Health Department. According to Dr. Weis, the increase in international travel and foreign-born illnesses signals the demand for finding new means for handling TB.
"With direct access to a large patient population, we expect to be able to enroll 100 patients with active tuberculosis and 100 patients with latent tuberculosis yearly," said Dr. Weis. "Our cooperation with hospitals, private physicians, services and drug treatment programs allows us to screen and identify individuals with active TB and latent TB. Patients will receive services at the Tarrant County Health Department."
"The World Health Organization estimated that 2.5 to 3 million people died last year from TB," said Dr. Weis. "This grant benefits Tarrant County tuberculosis control as it adds significantly to the amount of funds available for the control and prevention of TB."
Andrew Vernon, co-chair of the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium Steering Committee, said, "In the initial major study undertaken by the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium, Dr. Weis and his team enrolled more patients than other sites, an aspect that distinguishes Dr. Weis in his TB research efforts."
For 15 years, Dr. Weis and his team have been using universal directly observed therapy (DOT). With DOT, a health care worker goes to the patient’s home or place of work and gives every dose of medication under direct observation. This has resulted in reductions in drug resistance and relapse of TB in Tarrant County. DOT is now recommended for all patients with TB in the United States.