Il fronte della tubercolosi

BERLINO – L’ultimo decennio è stato decisamente positivo per la lotta contro la tubercolosi. Con ogni probabilità riusciremo a raggiungere l'Obiettivo di sviluppo del millennio delle Nazioni Unite che prevede il dimezzamento, entro il 2015, dei casi e dei decessi per tubercolosi rispetto ai livelli del 1990. Sono almeno una dozzina i nuovi vaccini e i farmaci candidati attualmente in fase di sperimentazione, mentre l'Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità ha approvato un nuovo test diagnostico denominato GeneXpert.

Questo progresso è tanto più importante se consideriamo l'atteggiamento compiacente che ha paralizzato la ricerca e lo sviluppo di nuove terapie anti-tubercolosi verso la fine del ventesimo secolo. I farmaci utilizzati oggi sono ancora quelli sviluppati tra il 1950 e il 1970. Di fatto, il Bacillo Calmette-Guérin (BCG) sta per compiere cento anni, mentre il test diagnostico più utilizzato – il rilevamento microscopico di bacilli nell'espettorato – risale a ben 130 anni fa.

Non stupisce, pertanto, che l'efficacia di questi strumenti si sia indebolita. L'attuale vaccino previene le forme gravi di Tbc nei neonati, ma non la tubercolosi polmonare, ampiamente diffusa in tutte le fasce d'età. L'esame microscopico è inattendibile in quasi la metà del totale dei casi.

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