John Crofton, TB researcher, dies at 97

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2009 3:33 PM

John Crofton, a researcher renowned for his groundbreaking work on the treatment of the tuberculosis, has died at his home in Scotland. He was 97.

Dr. Crofton died on Nov. 3 in Edinburgh, according to his family and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The cause of death was not given.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, into a doctor's family, Crofton was particularly instrumental in finding the combination of drugs needed to combat tuberculosis in the 1950s, when doctors were trying to perfect the use of antibiotics against the often lethal disease, the Royal College of Physicians said.

"The work of Sir John and his colleagues has saved many, many thousands of lives worldwide. Sir John worked tirelessly throughout his life and he was still active until very recently," the group said in a statement.

After attending school in England and serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II, Crofton turned his attention to tuberculosis in 1951. He led a team of doctors and bacteriologists in Edinburgh who developed effective drug treatment combinations that greatly reduced death rates attributed to the disease.

The team's approach of combining antibiotics was adopted in numerous European countries and in the United States, the physicians' group said.

Before the antibiotic approach was proven effective, doctors had very few treatment options, usually prescribing bed rest for tuberculosis patients.

His multi-drug approach to tuberculosis also has proven effective in the treatment of various cancers and AIDS.

Crofton was an active lecturer who gave speeches throughout the world, and he was instrumental in leading the campaign against cigarette smoking in Scotland. He was an avid hill climber.

He served as an adviser to the World Health Organization on tuberculosis treatment and control, and received a knighthood in 1977 when he retired.

After stepping down from his formal position, Crofton focused his attention on combating tuberculosis in the developing world, traveling to Nepal and other countries and writing a book on the subject that was translated into 22 languages.

He is survived by his wife Eileen, their five children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.