Hope as world gets another TB vaccine

Scientists have developed a new tuberculosis vaccine that can prevent adults with latent TB from developing active TB infection.

The research took two years in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa. The vaccine has a 54 per cent efficacy as per the Phase 2b results.

“The vaccine appears to be quite safe, except from injection site reaction and flu-like symptoms that may last three to four days. We have not seen any major side effects,” Dr Ann Ginsberg, chief medical officer Aeras, said in a briefing to journalists in New York. The vaccine was developed by Aeras in conjunction with GSK.

BCG (bacille Calmette–Guérin), the only licensed tuberculosis vaccine, has been around since 1921, but does not offer substantial protection against pulmonary tuberculosis in Mycobacterium tuberculosis–infected adults.

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A quarter of the world’s population is said to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria causing TB.

Stays in lungs

There were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of tuberculosis and 1.7 million deaths from the disease in 2016 worldwide.

“The vaccine is targeted at adults 18-50 years, who may get TB, and it stays in their lungs as a latent infection, but may later on in life develop active TB.” Dr Ginsberg said.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported a total of 10 cases of active pulmonary tuberculosis in the vaccine group and 22 cases in the placebo group, in a study population of about 3,500.

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From the research on this vaccine, the association of HIV and TB was not significant in the study population as very few had developed HIV in the course of the research. Other causes of immunosuppression like poor nutrition are significantly playing a role in the progress from latent to active TB.

The announcement came as United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) plans to hold its first ever high level meeting on TB, where countries are expected to make a political declaration to end TB.

“TB was declared a global health emergency back in the early 90s but nothing much has happened. It is still an emergency,” Sahu Suvanand, deputy executive director of Stop TB Partnership Secretariat said.

TuberculosisTuberculosis Infection