In 2021, four medical students from the University of Adelaide completed a research project as part of their studies with the support of GPEx Senior Medical Educator, Assoc. Prof Jill Benson AM.

Sahil Kharwadkar, Vinal Attanayake, John Duncan and Novindu Navaratne undertook a systematic review on the potential impact of climate change on the transmission of Tuberculosis (TB).

“We had initially been researching the impact of climate change in Pacific Island countries. These small low-lying developing states already suffer significantly from climate change, whilst also battling a continuing TB epidemic,” said Sahil.

This prompted the group to investigate whether there was an association between climate change and TB, and what mechanisms were involved.

The group decided that the most effective method would be to examine the impact of climate change on the risk factors for TB. This would provide information on how climate change may influence TB transmission by exploring its potential impact on the underlying determinants of the disease.

Findings from their research revealed a positive association between climate change and five out of six important risk factors for TB transmission. As a result, they suggest that climate change may hinder the eradication of TB, particularly in vulnerable countries.

With several knowledge gaps and areas for future research identified during their project, the group said a natural next step would be first-hand data collection in affected countries.

They hope their findings inspire future research in this area and raise awareness about the significance of climate change on health.

“Our review is one of the few papers that has investigated the association between climate change and TB. As climate change continues to have a greater impact in the coming decade, it will be essential to acknowledge its role in the transmission of infectious diseases such as TB,” said Sahil.

Aside from gaining invaluable research skills during the project, the students also won the Silver Medal for the University of Adelaide Florey Critical Appraisal Award for their ground-breaking research.

“We would like to thank Assoc. Prof Jill Benson AM for all her support. She convinced us that we aren’t just medical students and that we can truly change the world.”

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