Good news as TB vaccine trials succeed ahead of worldwide roll-out

The current TB vaccine, given to very young children, but it only prevents severe complications. PHOTO | AFP

Trials of a new TB vaccine in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe have proved successful with the World Health Organisation describing them as a major breakthrough.

The trials of the vaccine by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline were published in the New England Journal of Medicine which said their success would now be followed up to see if they can be rolled out over the next decade.

There were an estimated 10 million new TB cases and 1.5 million deaths in 2018. Some have multidrug-resistant TB, which is when the bacteria does not respond to the most powerful drugs. Eight countries account for two-thirds of new TB cases: India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa. Nearly 160,000 people have TB in Kenya.

The new vaccine was tested on 3,573 adults in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia who were infected with TB and proved about 50 per cent successful.

There is an existing TB vaccine, given to very young children, but it only prevents severe complications. The new vaccine would be aimed at adults with the WHO seeking to cut death rates by 90 per cent by 2035.

GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental vaccine, made by a team of international scientists, is made up of proteins from bacteria which trigger an immune response.

TB has become resistant to drugs in an estimated 600,000 cases worldwide. “We should all be more worried about multidrug-resistant TB than we are. It gets nothing like the level of attention it should do,” Peter Sands, Global Fund’s head, had told AFP during a visit to New Delhi earlier in the year.