University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh hosts a distinctive interdisciplinary network of academic researchers in chemistry, clinical practice, data science, epidemiology, immunology, mathematical modelling, medical anthropology, both quantitative and molecular genetics and animal breeding who are working towards global tuberculosis (TB) control.

This reflects the unique status of our combined College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine in the UK and our strong One Health approach to disease research. We have an extensive global presence and believe in deliverable, adaptable, solutions for all communities and health systems.

Zoonotic TB and One Health

Mycobacterium bovis causes zoonotic TB, a significant contributor to the burden of human Tb across the globe. The most important reservoir for zoonotic cases is infected cattle, however the burden of cattle TB is in turn complicated in many countries by the contributions of wildlife reservoirs.

Its persistence is often the result of complex interactions between species, and therefore the eventual elimination of zoonotic TB requires an understanding of the roles of all the important pathways of infection.

Work at the Roslin Institute concentrates on understanding and reducing the impact of those pathways through a combination of projects to investigate the natural and vaccine-induced immune responses to TB in cattle (Prof. Jayne Hope, Dr. Tim Connelley), develop better approaches to breeding cattle that are genetically more resistant and less likely to transmit bovine TB (Prof. John Woolliams, Prof Georgios Banos and Prof. Andrea Doeschl-Wilson), understand the dimensions of bovine and zoonotic TB in sub-Saharan Africa (Prof. Mark Bronsvoort and Dr. Adrian Muwonge), and developing and implementing analytical methods to quantify epidemiological interactions in cattle-wildlife systems (Prof. Rowland Kao).

This work is funded under a wide ranges of projects with recent and ongoing support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, The Wellcome Trust, Science Foundation Ireland, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Clinical Studies and Imaging

The Edinburgh TB service is a joint academic/NHS service that serves the south east of Scotland. Current studies include hepatotoxic assays, biomarkers and sputum diagnostics. Emerging themes include whole body TB imaging and inflammatory cell imaging in TB. Within the service, TB and non-tuberculous mycobacterium are jointly encompassed in one clinic. Novel technology development through interdisciplinary collaboration (Prof. Kev Dhaliwal) is a key aspect of the grouping.

Diagnostics

ARREST-TB is a multilateral €4.5M project led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020, the Indian Department of Biotechnology, and the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

The project is aimed at developing diagnostic technologies for TB from a pan European (Spain, Italy and UK) consortium of academics and small and medium enterprises, working closely with, and conducting clinical evaluation/validation studies in, high TB burden countries – Russia and India. The core technology deliverables include: (i) Rapid screening of TB infection, (ii) Rapid molecular profiling of drug resistance, and (iii) Biomarkers for early diagnosis and assessing treatment response.

These tests will allow rapid detection of TB/Multi-drug resistant-TB with the use of a mobile ‘app’ to interpret results, log details of the location, as well as transmitting the data to the cloud for collation and reporting, thereby reducing under-reporting of TB cases, track treatment outcomes as well as identifying TB hot spots. Dr. Seshasailam Venkateswaran leads the project and is the global coordinator and the architect of the worldwide consortium, with Prof. Mark Bradley providing Scientific Leadership and global mentorship.

Population Health – Human TB

As the Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics’ lead for TB, Dr. Helen Stagg heads a research programme in human TB epidemiology. Our current major focus is on treatment optimisation and adherence across the areas of latent infection, and both drug sensitive and drug resistant disease.

Among other sources, our research has been/is supported by the National Institute for Health Research UK (2015-17), Medical Research Council UK (2018-2023), and Korea Health Industry Development Institute (2017-18), and has underpinned national and international (World Health Organization, European Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) treatment guidelines.