World TB Day: Tuberculosis vaccine development a priority for the NIH

The National Institute of Health reasserted its commitment to tuberculosis research on Monday at a World TB Day event.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, began by questioning current global health priorities.

"If we had 1.4 million deaths in the developed world, in the US, from TB, do you really think that we wouldn't have a vaccine right now that worked?" Fauci said. "I don't think so."

Fauci added that approximately one-third of the world's current population has been infected with M. Tuberculosis, with 8.8 million new cases of active disease each year.

The only existing tuberculosis vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, or BCG, was first developed in 1921, and has since shown variable efficacy. TB research dropped off in the second half of the 20th century as the disease slowly disappeared from the developed world and has only recently regained global attention with the emergence of HIV/TB co-infection.

"BCG is not effective in preventing adult pulmonary TB," Fauci said. "Unless you have a vaccine that can prevent the most transmissible form of the disease, you don't really have a good full robust tool-kit... There is no safe and effective vaccine against all forms of TB. We need a vaccine to prevent different stages of disease, we need vaccines to block the emergence from latency to activity as well as initial infection."