Stop TB Partnership

International student organizations link forces to raise awareness for this year's World TB Day

03 February 2015 - Under the umbrella of the StopTB Campaign's call to "Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone" for Stop TB Day 2015, three international student organizations are linking forces to raise awareness and advocate for better treatment. The International Veterinary Students' Association (IVSA) is the largest veterinary student association in the world, representing around 30,000 students in more than 40 countries. The International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) represents more than a million medical students in 117 countries. Finally, the International Pharmaceutical Students' Federation (IPSF) represents 350,000 pharmacy students and recent graduates in 70 countries worldwide.

IVSA, IFMSA, and IPSF have a short but vibrant history of collaboration. In August 2014, IFMSA and IVSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize their multidisciplinary collaboration, and IVSA and IPSF have an informal collaborative agreement. IPSF and IFMSA have a standing MOU as well. While attending the upcoming WHO Executive Board Meeting, representatives from all three organizations will meet with the goal of developing a stronger vision for future multidisciplinary collaboration.

For Stop TB Day 2015, we are encouraging our members to join the fight to "Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone" by focusing on multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB). Globally in 2013, an estimated 480,000 people developed MDR-TB. About half died from the disease. The primary cause of MDR-TB is inappropriate treatment or the use of poor quality drugs, as MDR bacteria do not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful first line drugs. Treatment for MDR-TB is not always available and requires up to two years of treatment.

A complicating factor is the presence of Mycobacterium bovis. M. bovis causes bovine tuberculosis, which is one of the seven neglected tropical diseases. As a zoonotic disease, this bacteria causes disease in cattle and humans. The contribution of M. bovis to the human TB epidemic is on the rise, reported in Tanzania to be the cause of 4-10% of human TB cases. M. bovis and the more common bacterial cause of human TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, often present very similar clinical pictures. However, they can require different treatment. Few hospitals have the diagnostic capacity to distinguish between them. Patients with M. bovis often do not respond to drugs that are commonly used to treat TB, which can have fatal results. Just like with MDR-TB, more expensive or less available drugs are needed. In addition, inappropriate use of drugs can accelerate the development of MDR-TB.

Recent collaboration between veterinary and medical professionals researching bovine and human tuberculosis in Tanzania has resulted in joint research on other zoonotic diseases, the establishment of a zoonoses group at the livestock ministry, and a series of meetings between that group and representatives from the ministries of human health and livestock production (WHO, 2006). The breadth of this collaboration has the potential to increase access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment, reducing the number of TB cases both locally and worldwide.

Experience in this kind of multidisciplinary collaboration should start at university training level. When we achieve this, multidisciplinary collaboration within the next generation of healthcare workers will be even more successful than it already is. On a global level, more attention is being given to the One Health initiative, the concept that animal, human, and environmental health are inextricably linked. As three student organization partners, IVSA, IFMSA, and IPSF recognize that we are not working by ourselves but are seeking and promoting interprofessional collaboration to "Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone." To do this, we have established a planning committee including at least two representatives from each organization. Our goal is to advocate for research towards more effective and accessible treatment for MDR-TB, and increase awareness about MDR-TB and the complicating role of bovine TB. We aim to produce a promotional video and two informational brochures to be disseminated in our Call for Action. Most importantly, we aim to contact members in countries with cross-organizational reach, to initiate contact and aid these new multidisciplinary teams in developing projects.

Together we will not only educate, promote appropriate diagnosis, and raise awareness about treatment protocols that will heal even more people, prevent MDR-TB, and help accelerate the decline of tuberculosis, but build strong bonds between the professions that will last into the future.

Text by: Sarah Krones, IVSA; Skander Essafi, IFMSA; Barbara Villela, IPSF


Drug-Resistant TB - Surveillance and Response, WHO, 2014.

Framework for Action on Interprofessional Action and Collaborative Practice.

IVSA Informative Leaflet, 2014.

MDR-TB Public Health Crisis poster, WHO, 2014.

Seven Neglected Endemic Zoonoses, WHO, 2015.

The Control of Neglected Zoonotic Diseases, WHO, 2006.

Tuberculosis, WHO, 2015.

What is multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and how do we control it? WHO, 2014.