Clinical trials are underway with the first new vaccine against TB in over 80 years. If successful, the tests will have major implications for TB control and could lead to the development of a new vaccine ready to use within eight years.
The need to control TB has become more urgent with the resurgence of the disease in many parts of the world, including a 10% rise in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains.
TB, which is caused by the M. tuberculosis bacterium, is thought to kill two million people every year. The UK's Health Protection Agency recorded over 8,000 cases in 2005, including almost 3,500 in London alone.
The vaccine has been developed by Dr Helen McShane, a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Research Fellow, working with Professor Adrian Hill, a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, both at the University of Oxford. Dr McShane has been awarded a Strategic Translational Award from Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust to develop and test the vaccine, which currently leads the field. Additional funding has been provided by the European Commission.
Currently, the only vaccine against it is the BCG vaccine, which is administered to infants throughout the developing world and most of the developed world. However, the vaccination is only thought to be protective in preventing severe forms of the disease and is not effective in adults. In addition, antibiotics to deal with infection must be administered over many months and are becoming increasingly ineffective as the bacteria develop resistance to the drugs available.
"In children, the current vaccine provides some protection against severe forms of the disease, but there is clearly room for improvement," explains Dr McShane. "The rise in the number of cases of multi-drug resistant forms of TB plus the increasing number of cases of TB in people living with HIV means a new vaccine is essential. We can no lo
Contact: Craig Brierley