Super vaccine may fight multidrug-resistant TB

Researchers say they may have developed a potential new super vaccine to ward off multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

Researcher Rhea N. Coler, of the Infectious Disease Institute in Seattle, recently told Medill Reports that the new vaccine, which is being developed for testing in humans, protects against TB and drug-resistant TB in animals and is a candidate for boosting the protective efficacy of the childhood BCG vaccine in humans.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis attacks the lungs and kills 2 million people a year worldwide. Doctors say they have hope for potential TB super vaccines, because TB can develop drug resistance due to partial or incorrect drug treatments.

Dr. John Flaherty, professor in the division of infectious diseases at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told Medill Reports that super vaccines could be the key to fighting resistant strains.

“This is a terrible disease, and we haven’t made a whole lot of headway with it in the world,” Flaherty told Medill Reports.

Flaherty said that the current vaccine, BCG, is less than perfect because it does not prevent the disease completely and is not generally recommended for use in the United States, where TB incidence is low.

Jennifer Horvath, spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Medill Reports that an effective vaccine would be an important tool in eliminating tuberculosis. She noted that while TB rates remain relatively low in the United States - the CDC recorded about 13,000 cases a year for both 2007 and 2008 – global travel patterns create a domestic threat.

Researchers said that the new vaccine aims to protect against many types of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. Four M. tuberculosis antigens were combined into a single protein that triggered key immune cell responses in guinea pigs, mice and monkeys. Vaccinated animals showed fewer tuberculosis bacteria in their lungs after exposure to virulent or multidrug-resistant tuberculosis strains and were protected from subsequent infections, according to Medill Reports.