Tuberculosis no longer a ‘Victorian disease’ warns Hampstead doctor

A Hampstead doctor has warned that London is in the grip of a tuberculosis epidemic - even as he receives three prestigious international awards for his lifetime’s work in the field.

Professor Alimuddin Zumla, who works at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and University College Hospital in Euston, said he was grateful for the accolades for his work tackling the often lethal bacterial infection of the lungs.

But he warned there was no room for complacency.

He said: “In the past everybody thought that I was wasting my time and that tuberculosis (TB) was a Victorian disease. But the white plague has returned to London.”

He spoke as it was announced She has been awarded the India International Foundation Science Award, the University of Amsterdam Spinoza Leerstoel award, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Stop TB Kochon Prize.

The WHO prize is a top medical award resulting from the nominations of experts from 168 countries.

The fatal lung disease, which causes pallor and the coughing up of blood, is a rising problem in London.

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Poverty and poor living conditions make contemporary London the “European capital” of the disease - which in earlier times killed the romantic poet John Keats, both the Bronte sisters, and the Dutch philosopher, Spinoza. Prof. Zumla was himself struck down by it as a young doctor, which proved to be a life-changing experience.

After narrowly escaping with his life he has worked tirelessly in the field of tuberculosis research across many continents.

He said: “I’m glad I managed to recover and reach a stage where I’ve helped many people.”

“My success is due to the hard work of all my teams and the great research environment at both University College Hospital and the Royal Free.”

“The Royal free is a wonderful place to work, with lots of the very best people to collaborate with.”

His ongoing work includes researching new drugs and steering major new projects in Africa and Belarus, in eastern Europe, to tackle the infectious disease, which is spread by breathing in air droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person.