A consortium of doctors and researchers from India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa have partnered to conduct a study on the epidemiological impact and intersection of the COVID-19 and Tuberculosis pandemics in these countries.

Under this joint research, the teams from these countries will explore the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the epidemiological characteristics of TB infection and search for mechanisms responsible for the interaction of these two processes. They will also search for strategies to mitigate the negative consequences of the pandemic and develop individual recommendations for each participating country, which can help overcome the impact of epidemics of respiratory viral diseases on the epidemic of tuberculosis.

Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa currently rank 2nd to 5th in the number of cases of COVID-19 and belong to 24 countries recognized by WHO with the highest burden of tuberculosis in the world. Moreover, BRICS countries have the largest number of cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Hence the research will be conducted in these 4 BRICS countries where one of the highest-burden rates of both COVID-19 and tuberculosis has been recorded simultaneously.

This research supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is being led by Prof. Urvashi B Singh from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India, along with Dr. K S Sachdeva, Regional Director, South East Asia, International Union Against TB and Lung Diseases, Dr. Mandal, Deputy Director-General, and Dr. Sanjay Mattoo from National TB Elimination Program, India and Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS, New Delhi among others from the Indian side. The leaders from the other countries include Dr. Anete Trajman, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Social Medicine Institute, Brazil, Dr. Irina G. Felker, Novosibirsk Tuberculosis Research Institute, Department of the Tuberculosis Epidemiology, Novosibirsk, Russia, and Prof. Anneke Hesseling, Desmond Tutu TB Centre Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

The teams will assess the impact of COVID-19 on trends in the structure of the M. tuberculosis population, primarily through the interaction between scientists from Russia and India. The teams from Brazil and South Africa will evaluate the impact of tuberculosis on the clinical course and treatment outcomes for COVID-19 at the individual level. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictive measures on morbidity and tuberculosis-related mortality will be assessed using mathematical modeling.

This collaborative research will provide a differentiated country-based assessment of the negative consequences of COVID-19 on the provision of anti-tuberculosis care, its continuity, consistency, and adequacy through a comparative analysis of the inter-country similarities and differences in the interaction of the two epidemics at the population and individual level.

The analysis will provide insights into the most important points of application for epidemiological, medico-social, clinical, and socio-economic interventions that are expected to reduce morbidity and mortality from the interaction of COVID-19 and TB in both the short and long term. The approach used will allow the development of a unique platform for mathematical modeling of the epidemic tuberculosis process, which will also support and enhance epidemic modeling capabilities in BRICS countries and thus provide a solid foundation for future collaborative modeling research.

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