My aim is to eradicate tuberculosis across the world
Published: 21 October 2019
Professor Amina Jindani
Last week, Professor Amina Jindani delivered her inaugural lecture as Professor of Tuberculosis Therapeutics. She recently also hosted the International consortium for trials of chemotherapeutic agents in tuberculosis symposium at St George’s. We spoke to her about how and why she set up the consortium, how she became interested in tuberculosis and her inaugural lecture.
Why did you set up the International consortium for trials of chemotherapeutic agents in tuberculosis?
I initially set up this consortium as an event where tuberculosis (TB) experts from all over the world could gather to discuss their research and to build networks and collaborations with people who are researching the same niche as yourself.
Unfortunately there has been a huge lack of funding for tuberculosis research. Most of the funding given is to investigate antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis, which only accounts for a small percentage of all cases across the world. I am interested in non-resistant restrains, as I believe that if we adapted the treatment of the normal strand then we could save millions of lives across the world. To raise further funds for the eradication I have set up a charity called 'World without TB', which raises funds for further research into TB and also helps purchase medical equipment for countries across the world.
Could you tell us how you first became interested in tuberculosis?
I was born in Zanzibar in 1936 and brought up in a traditional Muslim family. At that time it was very rare for young people to be educated, especially young women. My siblings and I were schooled at home. My father was always very insistent on all of his children having an education, so I took this very seriously and wanted to do my best. My mother had expectations like most mothers at that time – she believed that her daughters would get to a certain age, get married and have no need for education, but I didn't want to follow that path. I have always been extremely thankful to my parents for giving me the gift of education.
When I first qualified as a doctor I found myself in Nairobi, Kenya, where I was sent to work at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, which looked after people affected by TB and leprosy. That was when I first got interested in tuberculosis – through both caring for patients with TB and also through a Medical Research Council grant the hospital received to explore treatment for tuberculosis patients and to ultimately reduce treatment duration. When a vacancy came up as the co-ordinator of drug trials associated with the project, I was asked if I would take it on. I had always loved research, so I said yes straight away and from there, my interest grew further. Working in the clinic gave me the opportunity to gain my PhD, to travel while furthering my work, and build lifelong friendships with other PIs during that time, who I have seen grow up, get married, have children and develop their own careers.
Could you tell us about your research into TB?
My research into TB, which I described in my inaugural lecture, has been about making treatment more accessible for patients across the world, as well as striving for ways to shorten treatment times, ensure better access to drugs, reduce their cost, make treatments less invasive and reduce frequency of visits to healthcare facilities.
I joined St George’s in 2004 and since then have continued my research, with the aim of eventually eradicating TB across the world. My main area of study is investigating ways of shortening treatment times by giving higher doses of certain drugs to trial patients. This approach has already reduced treatment time from 2 years to 6 months, but I believe that this can be reduced to four or even three months if we keep trialing drugs. Results from one of my latest trials can be seen here and showcases the effect higher doses of rifampicin has on shortening tuberculosis treatment time.
TB is currently one of the top ten causes of death in the world and is estimated to kill over 10.4 million people a year. With the absence of an effective vaccine, I believe that by making treatment as accessible as possible and reducing its duration are our best options for eradicating the disease across the world. I will continue my work for as long as I can to begin more trials into the effects of higher dosages of drugs to shorten treatment time for patients. You can find out more about Professor Jindani's charity World Without TB here.