39th Union World Conference on Lung Health

16-20 October, Paris, 2008

The 39th Union World Conference on Lung Health of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) was held at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, France, from 16 to 20 October 2008. The conference brought together 2600 delegates from 125 countries to discuss, debate and share the latest research results and best practices to better address and fight tuberculosis (TB), other respiratory diseases and tobacco use. This year's theme “Global threats to lung health: the importance of health system responses” was chosen to highlight the importance of exploring the challenges of building up and strengthening health systems to prevent global threats to lung health. Participants could also explore how to mitigate their impact on people's overall well-being, and evaluate their national and trans-border social and economic consequences. According to The Union, the conference was also an occasion for delegates to contribute to the organization's commitment to act globally for a more coordinated and effective response, regardless of where lung health professionals live or work.

Other issues addressed during the conference included the challenges and possible remedies for drug-resistant TB, especially in the presence of HIV and across high-burden countries, new diagnostic strategies to improve quality diagnosis for disadvantaged populations, smoke-free policies, national health systems response, innovations and sustainable financing for TB control and health systems, TB transmission control in health care facilities, advocacy and humans rights, social equity and ethical care and successful models of community and partner involvement in TB control. Several postgraduate courses were held and poster sessions were on view throughout the conference.

Delegates were welcomed by The Union's new President, S. Bertel Squire, who opened the inaugural session on 17 October and introduced special guest Mr. Louis-Charles Viossat, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador, who spoke about France's long-standing commitment to solving the problems of TB, AIDS and other diseases by giving both scientific and financial support towards control and eradication efforts.

Although curable, TB still kills 1.6 million people per year. Left untreated, a person can infect an average of 10 to 15 people each year. Tests available in the developing world for diagnosing poverty-related diseases like TB are largely either out-dated or ineffective. In industrialized countries, the medical technology is often too expensive or not adaptable for use in most resource-poor settings. Some health infrastructures in high-burden countries also lack proper equipment. As a result, less than a quarter of new TB cases worldwide are detected and reported annually due to the inefficiency of the more than 100 year old and most commonly used TB diagnostic test in developing countries, sputum microscopy. Strengthening health systems and introducing more accurate and faster methods of diagnosis would have a tremendously positive impact on disease control and improved healthcare.

Conference highlights and FIND related-events:

  • The TB and Poverty Subgroup meeting during which Dr. Delia Boccia, TB & Poverty Policy Research Officer, delivered a presentation titled “The association between TB and poverty in Zambia: the role of food availability”.
  • The Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI) Meeting during which FIND CEO, Dr. Giorgio Roscigno made a presentation on “The changing landscape of TB diagnostics and the implications for laboratory strengthening” (presentation).
  • A one-day Stop TB Partnership symposium on "TB control: working with the whole health system”
  • The New Diagnostics Core Group and Sub-group Chairs
  • Carl Zeiss and FIND's announcement of the availability of the new iLed fluorescence microscope for the better detection of TB at an affordable price for the 22 high-burden countries identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) (Press release)
  • The annual STOP TB Working Group meeting on New TB Diagnostics co-chaired by Dr. Giorgio Roscigno and Andrew Ramsay (WHO/TDR). (Agenda and FIND presentations)
  • A FIND Scientific Forum on Recent Advances in TB Diagnostics to also mark the foundation's 5th anniversary with several presentations by FIND staff members and partners who provided an overview of progress made on TB diagnostics. (Agenda and presentations)
  • A symposium on “New Diagnostics strategies: impact on clinical management” chaired by FIND Head of Product Evaluation and Demonstration, Dr. O'Brien and coordinated by FIND Head of TB Laboratory Support, Dr. C.N. Paramasivan. This session addressed the following two themes: “How close are we in differentiating infected from diseased in TB” and “TB diagnostic technologies towards closing the gaps.” (Agenda)
  • A special guest lecture titled “Lung Health: can health systems affect equity?” by Dr. Jacob Kumaresan, Director of the WHO Centre for Health Development in Kobe, Japan
  • Three plenary sessions on:

Health Systems and Human Resources: Contribution of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria;
Response of Health Systems to MDR/XDR-TB;
Mexico's Switch Towards a Successful Tobacco Control Policy

  • A symposium on “Progress in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis” chaired by Dr. C.N. Paramasivan. FIND Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Catharina Boehme gave a presentation on the “First evaluation of Xpert MTB prototype assay for rapid detection of pulmonary TB and MDR-TB in Peru and Latvia.
  • A symposium on “Laboratory scale-up for enhanced TB diagnosis”, chaired by Dr. C.N. Paramasivan, who also gave a presentation titled “Experience from the field: what works well and what does not so well” (Presentation)
  • “Reality check! Ensuring the pertinence of TB diagnostic tools for the peripheral level”, a symposium organized by Médecins Sans Frontières. FIND Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Mark Perkins, was available to answer questions concerning FIND's activities and TB diagnostic pipeline.
  • A FIND sponsored meeting on MTBDRplus assay
  • A “Meet the experts” session hosted by Dr. Mark Perkins on the “Development of Diagnostics” during which he described how FIND develops and selects new tests, evaluates them and proves their utility. Participants also had an opportunity to introduce themselves and ask questions about specific technologies emerging from FIND's development pipeline. (Presentation)

View pictures

Poster sessions by FIND Staff:

  • “TB and poverty”, Dr. Delia Boccia, TB & Poverty Policy Research Officer
  • “Evaluation of a new commercially-manufactured LED fluorescence microscope Primo Star iLED for detection of TB”, Dr. Pamela Nabeta, Associate Medical Officer
  • The “Economic evaluation of MTBDRplus Assay for rapid detection of MDR-TB in high burden resource-poor settings”, Hojoon Sohn, FIND Consultant and Health Economist
  • FIND demonstration project for Hain assay in South Africa (presentation by Martie van der Walt, MRC South Africa), Dr. Heidi Albert, Senior Scientist, Head of Laboratory Research

View pictures

Media and advocacy events included:

A training workshop on TB for journalists was organized by the STOP TB Partnership during which the role of the media in fighting TB was discussed. Participants also had the opportunity to learn more about the disease, recent development in global TB control, political will, the global burden of TB and MDR-TB from New Jersey Medical School experts. Representatives of the Global TB Vaccine Foundation (Aeras) – who briefly described the mission and role of their organization but also of FIND and The TB Alliance – and FIND were available to answer questions.

A FIND-Zeiss media briefing to announce the availability of the fluorescence LED based technology new microscope at a negotiated price for the 22 high burden countries as identified by WHO. Press release

A “Talk to the Advocate” session organized by TB Alert, 18 October 2008. Co-ordinated by TB Alert on behalf of the Stop TB Partnership's Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization (ACSM) Working Group, the Advocates' Corner welcomed advocates and researchers. Various sessions were organized to enable participants to meet, network, share ideas and best practices, but also to promote their organizations and/or projects and share related documentation. Dr. Yamuna Mundade, FIND Medical Officer (FIND India) and Jewel Thomas, FIND TB Communications Officer participated in a session on R&D of new tools with representatives of other PDPs.

FIND booth

Visitors to the booth were able to meet FIND staff and view materials describing the Foundation's projects and progress over the last five years. A recently published 5 year anniversary report on FIND could be ordered at the booth. For more information, and to order a free copy of “Delivering on the promise 2003-2008”.


The Union Scientific Prize was awarded to Dr. Rony Zachariah (Belgium) who is general coordinator for operational research and documentation at the Brussels headquarters of Médecins sans Frontières. The Scientific Prize of US$ 2,000 is awarded to a researcher under 45 years of age for work on tuberculosis or non-tuberculous lung disease during the past two years.

The Karel Styblo Award for Public Health was awarded to Chief Austin Arinze Obiefuna (Ghana). This award is given to a health worker (physician or lay person) for contributions to tuberculosis or non-tuberculous lung disease.

Next Union Conference

The 40th Union World Conference on Lung Health will be hosted in Latin America, in Cancùn, Mexico, from 3-7 December 2009.

For more information: http://www.worldlunghealth.org/Conf2009/website/