Interview with Professor Raquel Duarte, specialist in infectious diseases

Ahead of World Tuberculosis Day (24 March 2022), we spoke to Prof. Duarte, a specialist in infectious diseases. She spoke about the importance of TB research and the message that TB is curable and preventable.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the work that you do.

I am a Pulmonologist and a Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Porto. I’m also the coordinator of the Infectious Diseases Research Group at the Institute of Public Health in Porto and the recently created Clinical Research Unit at Northern Regional Administration in Portugal. I am also secretary of ERS Assembly 10, infectious diseases. During the past years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was called to be an advisor of the Portuguese Government to help to organise the national response.


What impact does the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP) and organisations like it have?

The Institute of Public Health in Porto has, at its core, the fundamental purpose of saving lives. It does this by investing in the development and distribution of scientific knowledge in the field of Public Health. Healthcare professionals are trained through the various research and development units that compose its structure. It creates highly competitive, innovative, and impactful scientific products. After a pandemic, and with the imminent public health risk deriving from an armed conflict, it is ever more important for health institutions such as ISPUP to continue their efforts to prevent disease outbreaks and lessen the consequences of those outbreaks. If the past 2 years have taught us anything, it’s crucial to prepare for the unpredictable. Therefore, there is a rising need for health services, public health systems and institutions to develop joint efforts to deliver connected and coordinated programmes focused on a common goal.


What is UNITE4TB, and why is it vital that we continue to research new drugs for tuberculosis?

Only one reason needs to be pointed out to justify the need to continue the research for new TB drugs: in 2020, more than 1 million people in the world died from TB. TB is a global disease, present in every country and every community. However, few new drugs and regimens have been developed in the past years despite that. It was to overcome some of the hindrances in this field of research that UNITE4TB was created. This project is a public-private partnership with representation from

  • academic institutions,
  • small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),
  • public organisations, and
  • pharmaceutical companies.

Over the next 7 years, the project team will be active in approximately 40 trial sites in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. UNITE4TB will deliver clinical trials that will accelerate the development of new TB drugs and regimens. Ultimately, it will aim to fulfil one of the main unmet needs in the TB field: better-tolerated drug regimens of shorter duration that can be used to tackle tuberculosis in people with drug-resistant TB and co-morbidities.


Why do you think it is important for organisations such as ELF to be involved with projects such as UNITE4TB?

One of the main traits that distinguishes UNITE4TB is a collaborative effort between multiple stakeholders. Though it has to be directed at the community, a genuine effort to end TB should also be developed and constructed with the community. For that reason, it stands that organisations such as ELF should be involved in efforts that are perfectly aligned with their aims and missions. By having patient-led organisations in the project team, one could also assume that adherence and the sense of partnership will be greater than in any other circumstance. Within its foundation, UNITE4TB proposes a true shift in TB drug development while improving patient care.


With World Tuberculosis Day coming up on 24 March, what are the key messages you would like us all to know about TB?
  • TB is curable and preventable
  • We must work together.



Learn more about UNITE4TB

Learn more about TB