Today, leading tuberculosis researchers including Helen McShane, PhD, Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford, Ann Ginsberg, MD, PhD, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Aeras and Tim McHugh, PhD, Professor of Medical Microbiology, University College London, gathered in London just days ahead of the launch of the World Health Organization annual Global Tuberculosis report, to call for a greater focus on the development of a new vaccine in light of rising numbers of drug resistance .
This follows a study published in the Lancet in August 2012, which indicates that incidence rates of drug resistant strains may be even higher than previously expected. Tuberculosis is the second leading infectious killer and continues to take the lives of 1.45 million people each year (the equivalent of the populations of Birmingham and Liverpool combined). The increase in strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to both first and second line drugs for TB is of significant concern as the cost of treating drug resistance can be 10x more expensive to treat. While the continued research and development of better tools to diagnose and treat TB are still crucial, so is the development of a vaccine that provides life long protection against the most infectious forms of TB.
Currently the only TB vaccine available is the BCG which provides protection against childhood TB meningitis. However this vaccine does not offer life long immunity and does not protect against TB of the lungs, the most infectious form of the disease. In addition, people living with HIV cannot receive the vaccination against TB which can cause life threatening side effects, yet TB is the largest killer of people living with HIV, accounting for almost 25% of all deaths in people living with HIV.
Promising results are expected from a clinical trial in South Africa, carried out at the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative with support from Aeras, The Wellcome Trust, the European Commission, Emergent BioSolutions and the Oxford-Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium, illustrating the key role and leadership of UK scientists and investments into vaccine research.
In order to tackle the global crisis of tuberculosis we will need to utilize every tool we have including the use of an effective vaccine to bring this ancient disease to eradication by 2050.
The full press release can be seen here.