SLU researchers developing new TB vaccine

Researchers at St. Louis University are hoping a new vaccine they developed will prove capable of inducing an immune response against tuberculosis, scheduling human clinical trials for the vaccine to begin before the end of the year.

A TB vaccine already exists that can prevent people from developing some of the worst complications to the diseases. But, according to SLU lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hoft, as reported by PublicBroadcasting.net, the vaccine cannot prevent people from acquiring the disease. The limited efficacy of the existing vaccine has meant that it has only been used in places where TB is rampant, like Africa and Southeast Asia.

"So what we'd like to do is develop a vaccine that can prevent infection, or even better, a vaccine that could work given to people after they get infected to upregulate their immune system to eradicate the infection," Hoft said, according to PublicBroadcasting.net. "If it truly can prevent infection, or eradicate infection that's already established, that would be something that would be used in a much wider area, including at least high-risk populations in the United States."

Immigrants from countries where TB is endemic are considered at high risk to acquire the disease, as are those that live in crowded urban areas where the disease can be spread through the air more easily.

A large percentage of the world’s population - more than a third - is infected with TB bacteria. This includes 10 million Americans. Almost 2 million people die of the disease every year, mostly in the developing world.