New tuberculosis vaccine in sight

iStock

It took 100 years but a new vaccine for the world’s top infectious disease killer, tuberculosis (TB), is in sight. 

“In my opinion this meeting is one of the most significant events in TB history [because of] the spectacular results presented today [on progress towards a TB vaccine] for the first time in a century,” said Professor Thomas Ottenhoff from the global non-profit The Tuberculosis TB Initiative. 

He was speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday in The Netherlands ahead of the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health where the results for a new TB vaccine were presented. 

Developed by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) and Aeras the M72 vaccine is the most successful vaccine candidate for TB in a century: there was a 54% reduction in TB disease in vaccinated study participants. 

This is according to GSK’s Marie-Ange Demoitie who said these results had come after the pharmaceutical company, partnering with non-profit Aeras, had been working on the vaccine for two decades. 

The only existing TB vaccine, known as BCG, was developed a century ago and prevents serious forms of TB in children but has not worked to protect adults. 

“Modelling [studies] have already shown that a 50% effective vaccine, which this is, could save millions of lives and avert tens of millions of cases of TB,” said Dr Ann Ginsberg from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative. 

Since 2014 researchers have studied the protective effect of M72 in 3 500 people in three African countries: South Africa, Kenya and Zambia. 

The results now have to be confirmed in a bigger study before it can be rolled out in counties. 

According to the Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease’s scientific director Dr Paula Fujiwara, an effective vaccine is essential to meet the United Nations’ target of ending TB by 2030. 

“[To end TB] we need much more of the promising news we are hearing today and TB research and development needs to be drastically stepped up,” she said.

– Health-e News

Image credit: iStock

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