Babbage from The Economist


Babbage: How to use the pandemic to tackle TB

The pandemic shattered global efforts to control tuberculosis, which was the most lethal infectious disease in the world until covid-19 took its crown. Now, with deaths rising, TB is set to reclaim that dubious honour. But the covid era also holds important lessons for the fight against TB. Can innovations such as genomic sequencing facilities and new vaccine technologies be applied to TB care, too?

Avantika Chilkoti, The Economist’s international correspondent, travels to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to find out why TB is a disease of the poor. Mel Spigelman of the TB Alliance and Lucica Ditiu of the Stop TB Partnership say tackling the disease is a question of political will. Josefina Campos of ANLIS in Argentina explains how genomic sequencing helps monitor TB drug resistance. Author Vidya Krishnan talks about TB’s influence on art and culture. Plus, we examine why doctors are worried about the prospect of a new, highly contagious form of TB that doesn’t respond to existing drugs. Alok Jha hosts.

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Babbage: The hopes and fears of human genome editing

The Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing was held this week in London. It was the first such meeting since 2018, when a Chinese researcher announced that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies—a move that was roundly condemned at the time. Host Alok Jha and Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, report from the conference to explore the exciting future—and knotty challenges—of the world that gene-editing therapies could create.Robin Lovell-Badge, a leading scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London and the organiser of the summit, explains how genome-editing technology has rapidly advanced in recent years. Claire Booth, a professor of gene therapy and paediatric immunology at Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London discusses the hopes of gene-editing treatments. Plus, Kelly Ormond, a bioethicist from ETH-Zurich, explores the ethical dilemmas that are raised by the technology, and Filippa Lentzos of King’s College London, explains why human genome editing presents potential biosecurity risks.Listen to previous episodes of “Babbage” on the topic: the gene therapy revolution and an interview with Jennifer Doudna, the pioneer of CRISPR-Cas9 technology. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at