Stovepipe? Forget it, experts say. I didn’t think of that one

Our story on Tuesday about the new Omnicron status on bacteria and when it will put more pressure on vaccination is headlined a little misleadingly on several fronts.

First of all, what you might call the threat associated with TB is unlikely to involve so much “stovepipe” diseases as outlined by epidemiologist Jeremy King. What is “stovepipe disease” seems to lie somewhere between asthma and multiple sclerosis, leaving the rest of us in the comfort zone of improving the quality of life by avoiding unnecessary risk as much as possible. The problem is clearly an emergence of some methicillin-resistant “TB”, but for our patients this would probably be better than having a real strain that would be perhaps 100 times more deadly.

But for immunologists, and particularly those who have handled tuberculosis, the fear that we have any trouble tracking down TB is understandable. The infection is very tenacious, and if you have failed to properly immunise, the chance that you will acquire TB infection only increased with your chance of acquiring polio or diphtheria a few decades ago. Antibiotics really are our ultimate weapon against TB because they tend to target the more critical area where bacteria mount their own immune response.

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