Tuberculosis in the Copper Canyon, Mexico

This project was accomplished through work in the summer of 2008 with Dr. Michael Berkeley and Mexico Medical Missions. The project was based mainly at a free clinic for the indigenous Tarahumara —Hospital Misión Tarahumara—that Dr. Berkeley runs through Mexico Medical Missions. The Tarahumara are one of the few remaining indigenous tribes in North America. The community consists of approximately 80,000 people in the Copper Canyon area in the state of Chihuahua in Northern Mexico.  Poverty, malnutrition, and lack of access to care have lead to TB incidence rates at 200 active cases per 100,000 Tarahumara.  This is a rate that is equivalent to rates found in Africa, Peru and Russia where high HIV prevalence facilitates high TB infection rates; however, HIV is virtually non-existent in the tribe.  The project goal was to determine if there were other factors that were contributing to the Tuberculosis problem and to explore solutions that could combat the TB epidemic in the Copper Canyon.  This project can largely

be divided into three entities: epidemiological research, needs assessment and grant writing. The research was an study designed to elucidate characteristics of TB infection in the Tarahumara community. The two main factors that we studied are how malnutrition can affect non-pulmonary TB and whether or not Mycobacterium bovis or other species of TB are a significant cause of TB in the region. The needs assessment evaluated the ca

pacity to treat and included data from the epidemiological study. Ultimately, the need for an alternative approach to TB prevention and treatment is apparent in the Copper Canyon region. This has led me into a grant writing project for a “Tarahumara Tuberculosis Center.”  My mentor, Dr. Berkeley, is looking for 1-2 students to continue work on a Tuberculosis project or on a project aimed at Infant and Maternal Mortality or on Malnutrition in the Tarahumara tribe.

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