Number of TB Cases Will Decrease Overall, Fledgling Mathematical Technique Predicted

Old Disease, New Challenge: Tuberculosis in the 1990s

From 1993 to 1996, the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine held a series of three workshops to develop mathematical models that could forecast the spread of tuberculosis.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Old Disease, New Challenge: Tuberculosis in the 1990s.

The meetings were attended by more than 50 mathematicians, epidemiologists, clinicians, scientists, biostatisticians, policy analysts, and economists from around the world.

The purpose of the first meeting was to share information about the tuberculosis epidemic with a group of mathematical modelers who had been contracted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work on the TB epidemic.

At the second and third meetings, the modelers presented their preliminary results and the tuberculosis experts offered feedback regarding their assumptions and provided information on new developments in the epidemic.

Key Conclusions

  • None of the current and past models in the literature are adequate to address completely all the new scientific and epidemiological questions that have arisen with regard to the transmission of tuberculosis.
  • Many of the essential parameters for modeling tuberculosis, and for predicting the future number of cases, remain unknown.
  • Even given the imperfections in the models developed from these workshops, there are some conclusions that can be drawn (at the time of this summary, many aspects of the models were still being analyzed, and more complete results were not available).
  • The number of cases of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis is likely to increase, and at this time, there are no efficient treatments.