A microbiologist and leader in his field, Dr. Av-Gay research is focused on uncovering information critical to the development of new and better drugs to treat tuberculosis.
How important is tuberculosis (TB) research?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a deadly disease caused by infectious bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Until recently, TB was considered to be a minor and decreasing problem in industrialized countries, even though M.tuberculosis is still the leading bacterial cause of human mortality in the world. More than 10 million new cases of TB arise annually, causing more than 3 million deaths each year. The steady decline of TB in industrialized countries has also recently undergone a dramatic reversal. Multidrug resistant strains of M.tuberculosis are spreading from patients to the general population. The explosive re-emergence of TB together with recent development of recombinant DNA technology in mycobacteria, has brought mycobacterial research, neglected over the past 20 years, to the forefront of microbiological research.
Why is Mycobacterium tuberculosis so dangerous?
A cunning germ, Mycobacterium tuberculosis has been able to completely mislead our immune systems, convincing our body it isn't there, which is why it is such an effective pathogen. We discovered that the cells in charge of targeting and destroying invading bacteria are being fooled by a special protein that blocks our immune cells’ ability to recognize and destroy it.
How has the spread of TB shifted?
Until recently, TB was considered to be a minor and decreasing problem in industrialized countries, even though TB is still the leading bacterial cause of death worldwide. But the decline of TB in industrialized countries has recently undergone a reversal, with multidrug resistant strains of the disease emerging in vulnerable populations and being more difficult to cure. This re-emergence together with the recent development of recombinant DNA technology in mycobacteria, has brought mycobacterial research, neglected over the past 20 years, to the forefront of microbiological research.
Dr. Av-Gay has a PhD in Microbial Genetics from Tel Aviv University. He is a research scientist with the Immunity and Infection Research Centre at the Vancouver Coastal Research Institute and professor in the Division of Infectious Disease at UBC Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Av-Gay is also an editor for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, serves on various scientific advisory boards, consults for several Biotech companies, and is a member of the scientific review panels of the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Innovative Medicine Innovations, US National Institute of Health, and the European Commission FP6 and FP7 programs.