Promising new boost to make a better TB vaccine

Sandi Doughton of the Seattle Times reports today on a finding by local researchers that could, if proven out in human trials, improve our ability to vaccinate against tuberculosis.

We don’t have fully effective vaccines against some of the other big killers like AIDS or malaria, but we do have a TB vaccine. The problem with the current TB vaccine (called BCG, created in 1921) is that it’s not very effective and its protection doesn’t last very long.

One third of the world’s population has been infected by TB bacteria and drug-resistant strains are on the increase. A new TB vaccine is crucial.

As Sandi reports, scientists at Seattle’s Infectious Disease Research Institute have developed a new TB vaccine based on four key proteins that — in mice, guinea pigs and monkeys — appeared to boost immunity when used in combination with the BCG vaccine.

The headline of the research news article in Science magazine (online, subscription) is titled “Super Vaccine for TB on the Horizon,” which is a bit over the top.

This hasn’t even been tested in humans yet and animal tests results often don’t pan out in humans.

Further, another team in St. Louis might argue that their experimental TB vaccine, also announced today as being readied for human testing, could turn out to be even more super.

More studies needed, as they say.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.