The Global Health Research Center of Central Asia (GHRCCA) at the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), jointly with Nazarbayev University (NU) in Kazakhstan, has recently received a research grant award funded by the Ministry of Education and Science in Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev University and Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance collaboration in the Spring of 2010. This multi-discipline project includes Columbia University partners, the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

The four-year study is designed to determine socioeconomic, environmental, and genetic risk factors for transmission of Tuberculosis (TB) in three Kazakhstani oblasts: Almaty, Kostanay, and Kyzylorda. The study will involve multiple methods and components. A case-control study of TB-positive individuals is complemented by both a household cohort study and a genetic, family-based sub-study of risk determinants. In addition, genotyping of M.Tuberculosis strains and their susceptibility to anti-TB drugs will form the last component of the study. Data will be mapped in GIS to reveal the distribution of cases and strain types across the regions. Despite significant improvements in TB control in recent years, Kazakhstan still faces challenges including the emergence of multidrug-resistant strains. While incarcerated individuals in Kazakhstan’s penitentiary system, in particular, suffer from higher incidence and increased drug-resistance than those in the general population, the most salient risk factors for TB in Kazakhstan are undetermined at present.

Faculty and researchers are leading the multidisciplinary study. The investigative team includes: Dr. Assel Terlikbayeva, Regional Director of GHRCCA in Almaty, Kazakhstan; Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, Director of the GHRCCA and Professor at the CUSSW; Dr. Sandro Galea, Chair, Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health; Neil Schluger, Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences, College of Physicians and Surgeons; Dr. Ali Gharavi , Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Dr. Barry Kreiswirth, Director, TB Center, Public Health Research Institute, Newark, New Jersey. Scientists from Kazakhstan will also lead the study, including those from the Kazakhstani National TB Center, National Institute of Geography, and National Association of TB specialists.

Dr. Assel Terlikbayeva who will oversee the implementation of the research said, “The findings from this study will have very important TB research, prevention, treatment and policy implications not only for Kazakhstan, but for the whole Central Asian region. It is a complex TB study that will bring together multidisciplinary scientists from CU and Kazakhstan to study this serious health problem affecting our region.” Dr. El-Bassel said “This research is a model of how to bring scientists from different disciplines together to collaboratively study a universal, widespread biomedical problem such as TB. This type of research underscores CU’s commitment to a global mission, and through our university’s global focus, we have been able to recruit the most brilliant, dedicated researchers to our study team.”

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