An Australia-Papua New Guinea research partnership that aims to develop a new diagnostic tool to quickly and accurately identify children with tuberculosis has been awarded a sought-after funding grant at the recent International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.

The project, run by UNSW's the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR), in partnership with the Port Moresby General Hospital and Melbourne's Centre for International Child Health, explores a new approach to diagnosing children with tuberculosis using a T-cell based assay, and will also support the training of young medical researchers in PNG.

Combined infection with HIV and tuberculosis among children is a growing problem in PNG and in resource poor regions across the globe.

The project was one of the winners of the 2008 International Tibotec REACH grants awarded in Mexico City.

"Today we do not have ideal diagnostic tools for quickly and accurately identifying children facing tuberculosis, which is a very serious illness in its own right and particularly so in the context of HIV infection," says the project's principal investigator Professor John Kaldor of the Centre.

"It is imperative that we help the medical field identify best practice so that clinicians can implement them to save lives.

"This project caught the attention of the selection committee because of the international reputation of the partners, their focus on one of the world's poorest and often forgotten countries, and the importance of this work for millions of children at risk around the world," says Karen Mason, the REACH Initiative spokesperson.

Professor Kaldor says excellent collaborative partnerships have been established with the clinical researchers at Port Moresby General Hospital and the University of Papua New Guinea, which formed the basis for the project.

The REACH Initiative (Research and Education in HIV/AIDS for Resource Poor Countries) is sponsored by Tibotec - a Division of Janssen Cilag, which is a Johnson & Johnson company. It is highly competitive, with some 160 applications in the 2008 round resulting in 11 awards. Tibotec funds the program in recognition of the global challenge posed by the AIDS epidemic and the need for innovative collaborative projects between organisations in the developed and developing worlds.

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