New TB vaccine shows higher effectiveness in mice

Nele Festjens and Nico Callewaert of VIB and Ghent University in Belgium have developed a version of the tuberculosis vaccine that has been more effective in mice and may become a powerful weapon in the war against TB.

The new vaccine would provide more protection than the current bacilli Calmette-Guerin vaccine, which is used to reduce the 1.7 million deaths that occur from the disease each year.

“Our vaccine is more effective because it is more quickly recognized by the immune system of the vaccinated person,” Nico Callewaert said, according to MedicalNewsToday.com. “We have, as it were, undressed the existing vaccine by removing its protective shield.”

The BCG vaccine is derived from the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB. Festjens and Callewaert believe that the current TB vaccine is not particularly effective because the bacterium hides from the immune system of the host organism, which prevents an immune response from occurring. The scientists found that the bacterium hides behind what is called the SapM enzyme, which acts as a sort of shield.

Festjens and Callewaert have adapted the BCG so that it could no longer generate SapM, preventing it from hiding from the immune system, MedicalNewsToday.com reports. Test results showed that the adapted vaccine then provided better protection than the present BCG vaccine. They found that their new vaccine emitted signals to provoke inflammation and activate the appropriate cells in the immune system.

Festjens and Callewaert say that by applying their strategy of removing the protective shield, they should be able to create a vaccine that gives better protection against TB, according to MedicalNewsToday.com.