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Meet Madhukar Pai, a PLOS Tuberculosis Channel Editor

Tell us about yourself and current research, and about how you came to be interested in tuberculosis?

My research is mainly focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, especially in high-burden countries like India and South Africa. I trained as a doctor in India, and then got my PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. During my training in India, I worked on many infectious diseases, in an under-resourced environment. During my PhD, I decided to focus on TB in India. So, TB control became my career and my passion.

What made you decide to join the editorial team at the PLOS Tuberculosis Channel?

As a medical student and resident in India, I experienced, first-hand, the challenges people face in accessing medical literature. The Open Access movement aims to democratize science and make it widely accessible. So, I can totally get behind that!

I have been supporting OA publishing for over a decade and have been on the Editorial Boards of both PLOS ONE and PLOS Medicine for a long time. So, helping edit the TB Channel was a natural extension of this work.

Where do you see your field of research heading in the next few years? What are the next big questions the field will address?

It is sad that, in 2018, most LMICs are not able to offer more than a sputum microscopy test that dates to Robert Koch’s period or a better vaccine than BCG, which dates to the 1920s. We still treat drug resistance with toxic, expensive drugs that require 2 years of treatment, with 1 in 2 odds of death. This is simply unacceptable.

To eliminate TB, we need a better understanding of the complex interactions between pathogen and host, better diagnostics, more potent drugs that are safer and effective, and new prevention tools, including a better vaccine than BCG. If we cannot get these in the next 5-10 years, I don’t see TB elimination as realistic.

What is your favorite piece on the Channel to date? What do you think is a must-read on the Channel?

Oh, there have been so many good TB papers on the Channel, and we add new papers every two weeks! It’s hard to pick one. What I like about the TB Channel is that we not only showcase the best TB papers from all PLOS journals, but we are also able to highlight other good OA content on TB, from the media and other journals.

What is the importance of Open Access and Open Data in your field?

Information asymmetry is a key hurdle for LMICs, and OA can help level the playing field. OA is particularly relevant for TB, since TB mostly affects poor countries, where access to knowledge is limited. How can low- and middle-income countries develop good evidence-based policies if they can’t even get journal articles?

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