'Game changing' tuberculosis vaccine a step closer

This 1966 image made available by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows a chest x-ray of a tuberculosis patient

This 1966 image made available by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows a chest x-ray of a tuberculosis patient

The findings confirm earlier results first reported in 2018 for the adjuvanted subunit vaccine (M72/AS01E) developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). At present, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which was developed in 1921, is given to children to prevent the infection in many countries, including India, which reports the maximum number of TB cases every year.

Doctors were encouraged because protection declined only a little after two years, and even a partially effective vaccine would be a big help against TB.

Dr Fujiwara said the fact that it will be the first adult TB vaccine, provided it clears the future clinical trials, could be a game-changer.

"We are more cautious and also excited as we are a step closer to a vaccine for TB", said Dr Paula Fujiwara, Scientific Director, The Union.

The participants, both men and women aged between 18 and 50 years, were from 11 sites in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.

Two doses of M 72 were given to patients 30 days apart for three years.

The prior analysis had found a higher percentage of vaccine efficacy for participants age 25 and younger compared to those who were older than age 25.

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Dr Lewinsohn said the new vaccine had cleared a key "mid-phase development, and it is created to test both safety and to provide an early indicator of efficacy". The team saw no increase in adverse events, fatal events, or immune-mediated diseases over the extended follow-up period.

Tuesday's announcement spells good news, especially for developing countries such as India, that faces a quarter of the global TB burden.

"WHO will continue to support the development of the M72 vaccine and once the results are confirmed of this very exciting vaccine, we will support member states to adopt and implement it", said Gebreselassi.

"These results demonstrate that for the first time in nearly a century, the global community potentially has a new tool to help provide protection against TB", said Dr. Thomas Breuer, Chief Medical Officer of GSK Vaccines. Researchers have been seeking a vaccine that also works in adults, to curb spread of the disease.

"Without a more effective vaccine, it will not be possible to achieve the World Health Organization target of decreasing the number of new cases by 90% and the number of TB deaths by 95% between 2015 and 2035", said GSK in a statement.

The union is convenor of the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health being held in Hyderabad this week.

M72/AS01E still needs further testing and is likely a few years away from being licensed, but the new data adds to optimism that improved protection may in time be available for a disease that kills around 1.5 million people around the world every year. "We can not end the TB emergency unless we dramatically scale up prevention in those parts of the world where we are treating it".

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