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New Vaccine To Treat Tuberculosis

New Vaccine To Treat Tuberculosis

A new vaccine to treat TB has been shown to work before and after infection…

Danish scientists have developed a new vaccine that can fight tuberculosis not just before, but after infection has already occurred. The new vaccine could also offer protection more much longer than is currently possible. So far the vaccine has only been tested on animals, however the results looking promising.

TB is a huge global problem, particularly in developing countries, where access to antibiotics to treat the disease is limited. Once infected, the TB bacterium induces symptoms such as coughing, chest pain and weight loss, and left untreated it can lead to death.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics but these drugs are often hard to come by in developing countries. What makes TB even harder to tackle is the way the bacterium develops in our bodies. Only 5% of TB infections trigger symptoms immediately, in all other cases, once the mycobacterium tuberculosis enters the body, it changes its chemical state and continues to live dormant for many years. Usually the bacterium never wakes up from the latent state, but in 10% of these cases it reactivates and brings on serve symptoms.

new vaccine for tb

New Tuberculosis Vaccine

Current vaccines such as the BCG vaccine only work if they administered before exposure to TB. And even then these vaccines do not actually prevent infection; they only reduce the severity of the symptoms. But because the bacterium can lay dormant for so long, it can reactivate years after the vaccines ceases to have an effect.

Developed by a team at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, the new vaccine combines proteins that trigger an immune response to both the active and latent forms of Mycobacterium.

Because it tackles the bacterium in both states, it might be possible to give a booster jab post-exposure to older children or even young adults which would protect them well into adulthood, explained Professor Peter Lawætz Andersen: In these areas you cannot go in and treat more than half the local population. For instance, in Capetown 60% of people are thought to be infected. [BBC]

Professor Peter Davies, secretary of the group TB Alert, added:

A vaccine which can both protect against initial infection and protect from a breakdown of infection into disease is a major breakthrough

One of the main disadvantages of BCG was that it could only prevent infection going on to disease in the initially uninfected individual. It was therefore of no use in protecting infected adults who would become an infectious source of disease. Protecting children, though of value, does not protect against transmission, as children with active disease do not usually transmit disease

So far so good but we must remember that mice are not men (or women). [BBC]

Professor Francis Drobniewski, Director of the Health Protection Agencys National Mycobacterium Reference Laboratory praised the research and development of the vaccine:

This is an exciting and thoughtful piece of research. The existing BCG vaccine is cheap, safe, widely used but of limited efficacy

With over nine million new TB cases globally each year and increasing levels of drug resistance new diagnostics, drugs and especially effective vaccines are desperately needed. [BBC]

The findings were published in the Journal Nature Medicine.

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