Link between TB and viruses investigated


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Dr Marieke van der Zalm has received the Early Career grant from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU), for her pilot study, entitled “The role of respiratory viruses in the clinical presentation of South African children with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB)”.

Van der Zalm, who is a member of the diagnostic research team at the Faculty’s Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), said the study will be looking at the role of respiratory viruses in children presenting with symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis.

“It is known that viral infections play an important role in respiratory illnesses in children, with viruses found in up to 85% of cases,” she said.  “It is, however, not known what the association between viruses and other diseases, for example TB, is.”

According to Van der Zalm it is suspected that infection with respiratory viruses might play an important role in susceptibility to TB in children, including in the clinical and radiological presentation and response to TB treatment.

“To study this, we will do virus tests in children that get a TB work-up and check how often viruses are found in children with and without TB,” Van der Zalm said.

The study will be done within the diagnostic study of Dr Liz Walters, who heads up the diagnostic research team in paediatrics and child health studies at the DTTC.

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