Researchers working to improve mental health of tuberculosis patients worldwide

A Keele University professor is co-leading a research team aiming to improve mental health in tuberculosis (TB) patients by developing a new psychological treatment.

Tuberculosis is still a significant healthcare problem around the world and is the 10th most common cause of death worldwide, while almost half of TB patients also report suffering from depression as well.

Patients suffering from both of these conditions at the same time have significantly worse outcomes, as well as poorer adherence to treatment plans, which can cause further problems by raising the risk of TB transmission in communities, and the development of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Despite this there are no evidence-based treatments for people who have depression or anxiety as well as TB. This is a particular problem in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, which both have high numbers of TB and MDR-TB cases.

To combat this, a research team co-led by Keele’s Professor Saeed Farooq is working to develop a programme of research, the key element of which is developing and testing a cognitive therapy treatment, called CONTROL, to improve the mental health of people who have TB and MDR-TB. In addition, the research team will also examine if it is an effective strategy for improving adherence to TB treatment plans, thereby improving public health by reducing the transmission of TB.

As part of the study, the researchers will also see if the CONTROL intervention could be modified to help patients suffering from other chronic illnesses such as Hepatitis C, if it is successful in this trial. The research programme will also enhance the capacity for implementation research in low- and middle-income countries.

The study, which is funded by a £4.7million grant from the NIHR’s RIGHT 3 funding scheme, will have a huge impact on research and improving treatment outcomes for TB and mental health.

Professor Saeed Farooq said: “I am absolutely delighted with this grant success. This is a unique programme of research that addresses physical and mental health outcomes at the same time. I am very pleased that this research programme will enhance the capacity for research and will increase our ongoing collaborations with our partners in low- and middle-income countries.”