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Ian Orme is a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology at Colorado State University, and his research focuses on the immune response to tuberculosis (TB) – a bacterial disease that most often infects the lungs. He's speaking at the American Society for Microbiology's Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE).
In the U.S., TB seems like a thing of the past. Here, public health measures and medical care have all but wiped out the threat from this infection. But worldwide, the WHO says there were 9.2 million new TB cases in 2006 alone, and each person with TB infects an average of 10 to 15 people with the TB bacterium every year.
These are just some of the reasons Dr. Orme is delivering a talked titled “Tuberculosis: Why Now Is a Good Time to Leave the Planet” at ASMCUE. He admits leaving the planet isn’t a practical suggestion, but he wants to raise awareness of the disease and he’s not afraid to stir the pot a little. Orme and his group not only study the immune responses to TB bacteria, they’re also following a number of different avenues for developing new vaccines and improving the existing vaccine, BCG (bacille Calmette-Guérin).
In this interview, I talked with Dr. Orme about his vaccine work, why he thinks latent TB bacteria aren’t really latent, and how he sometimes feels like the wild-haired radical, cat-calling from the corner of the lecture hall.
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