The BCG World Atlas

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Tuberculosis (TB) continues to pose a major global health threat. Someone in the world is newly infected with TB bacteria every second. Every year, more than 9 million people develop active TB and it claims about 2 million lives. In Canada, the overall incidence of TB has declined, but rates remain high among immigrants from endemic countries and among Aboriginal populations. Currently, Nunavut is facing the largest TB outbreak in the territory’s 10-year history.

In the days leading up to World TB Day 2011 on March 24, a team of researchers from McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is officially launching the BCG World Atlas: a first-of-its-kind, easy-to-use, searchable website that provides free detailed information on current and past TB vaccination policies and practices for more than 180 countries.

“The Atlas is designed to be a useful resource for clinicians, policymakers and researchers alike,” said co-author Dr. Madhukar Pai, who is an assistant professor at McGill’s Dept. of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health and a researcher in the Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit at the Montreal Chest Institute and the RI MUHC. “It has important implications on diagnosing and treating TB and on the research that’s being done on developing a new TB vaccine.”

Ms. Alice Zwerling, BCG Atlas project leader and PhD candidate in epidemiology at McGill, explained that BCG vaccination can cause false positives in the skin test that’s routinely used to screen for latent TB. “As a clinician, if you’re trying to interpret the skin test in a foreign-born person, you’re going to want to know when the BCG vaccination was given back home and how many times it has been given. The Atlas provides this information and can help doctors decide on when to use the newly available blood tests for TB that are not affected by BCG vaccination,” she added.

BCG World Atlas is available at: http://www.bcgatlas.org/

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