Hope as tuberculosis vaccine trials enter final phase

Kenya: As the world celebrates the World Tuberculosis (TB) Day today, Kenya is among the countries conducting clinical trials on a vaccine for adults to counter the deadly disease.

The search for an effective vaccine to avoid development of the disease from latent to active TB has entered the final phase as Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Aeras launch the clinical trial for M72 vaccine.

The multi-country phase IIb trials are being conducted by Aeras and GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines in South Africa and Zambia as well to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the vaccine candidate.

The only approved TB vaccine by World Health Organisation (WHO) is Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), which has been used in infants to prevent TB infections. The vaccine has been proven to be ineffective in adults.

This second phase of M72 vaccine trial aims at evaluating the ability of the vaccine candidate to prevent TB disease in adults.

The three-year programme, which is expected to be completed in 2018, will see at least 450 Kenyans between the ages of 18 and 50, and harbouring latent TB, used in the trials based at Kemri laboratories at Siaya County Hospital, where this year's World TB Day will be celebrated today.

A total of 15 study centres in the three countries will be used in the programme, with 3,500 people expected to participate.

"An effective vaccine to prevent TB would have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of many Kenyans and also reduce the prevalence rate by a great margin," said Kemri Director Solomon Mpoke.

Speaking to The Standard on phone, principal investigator of the adult vaccine study at the Kemri Centre for Global Health Research, Videlis Nduba, said the essence of the study was to develop a vaccine that will prevent the progression from latent TB to active TB.

"The most effective way to stop an epidemic like TB is to prevent its spread. As with every major infectious disease in the history of mankind, prevention through vaccination would be the most cost-effective tool in eradicating disease burden," he said.