Sunday November 17, 2019

Vaccine Shows Promise for Preventing Latent Tuberculosis Infection from Turning into Active Disease

The lung disease kills more than a million people a year, mostly in poor countries, and about one-third of the world's people harbor

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Vaccine, Tuberculosis, Infection
A QuantiFERON-TB blood test. Data published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal shows screening with QuantiFERON. VOA

An experimental vaccine proved 50% effective at preventing latent tuberculosis infection from turning into active disease in a three-year study of adults in Africa.

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. The lung disease kills more than a million people a year, mostly in poor countries, and about one-third of the world’s people harbor the bacteria that cause it.

Results were reported Tuesday at a conference in India, the country hardest hit by TB, and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

There is a TB vaccine now, but it’s given only to very young children and partly prevents severe complications. Researchers have been seeking a vaccine that also works in adults, to curb spread of the disease.

Vaccine, Tuberculosis, Infection
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. Pixabay

GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental vaccine was tested in nearly 3,600 adults in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia who were infected with TB but who did not also have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Half were given two doses of vaccine a month apart and the rest got dummy shots. Thirteen people in the vaccine group and 26 in the other group developed active TB.

The new results show that “the vaccine is holding up” over time, and mark an important step toward having a prevention tool that’s been sought for 100 years, said Dr. Paula Fujiwara, scientific director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, the group hosting the conference in Hyderabad, India.

Plans are underway for another, definitive study, which will take at least several more years, she said.

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After two-year results were announced last year, the World Health Organization called the vaccine a major breakthrough and has been holding meetings to discuss how to further its development. (VOA)

Next Story

Ebola Vaccine Approved in Europe in Landmark Moment

The next step, prequalification by the World Health Organization, is expected within days

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Ebola, Vaccine, Europe
FILE - Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 16, 2018. VOA

This week the European Commission gave approval to a Ebola vaccine — an act that the World Health Organization calls landmark moment for global health and a likely game-changer in the battle against this deadly disease.

This is the first time an Ebola vaccine has been licensed anywhere in the world.  The next step, prequalification by the World Health Organization, is expected within days.

Prequalification means WHO is satisfied with the vaccine’s quality, safety and effectiveness.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier tells VOA this is an important step and a great achievement for public health.

Ebola, Vaccine, Europe
This is the first time an Ebola vaccine has been licensed anywhere in the world. Wikimedia Commons

“This will speed up any further process of getting a vaccine into a country for licensing, for manufacturing, for having more quantity of the vaccine whenever we need it or ahead of a presumed outbreak in order to vaccinate health care workers and first-line responders to have them ready for the battle against Ebola,” said Lindmeier.

The vaccine, in its experimental stage, has been and continues to be used in the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  It has been used to protect more than 250,000 people in the DRC’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

Lindmeier says WHO has developed a roadmap aimed at accelerating prequalification and licensing of the vaccine.  This will enable the agency to quickly roll out the vaccine in high risk countries in Africa.

“What does this mean right now for the Democratic Republic of Congo?  Right now, nothing will change because the vaccines as they are available will be used… But it is absolutely great news to see that this has now been approved and will be prequalified,” said Lindmeier.

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Lindmeier says there likely will be a higher demand for Ebola vaccine in coming years.  He says WHO is working with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners to develop a Global Ebola Vaccines Security Plan to fulfill growing needs and to ensure vaccine security. (VOA)