Evans: Vaccines must be developed for TB

Tom Evans, the chief scientific officer of tuberculosis vaccine non-profit Aeras, said in an editorial last week that vaccines must be developed to counteract the growing worldwide problem of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Evans said in an editorial that research recently published in The Lancet showed that the number of drug-resistant TB cases is rising worldwide. The research also determined that TB is building resistance to first and second line drugs used to treat the disease, Le Monde reports.

"Focused on eight countries, the study only hints at a much wider global problem," Evans said, according to Le Monde. "The nations most affected by the disease often lack the tools to properly diagnose drug-resistant TB, so the full scope of the problem remains out of reach. This study alludes to the fact that the problem is much more widespread. Nearly 80 countries have reported cases of tuberculosis that are resistant to most drugs, and some have recently discovered TB strains that are virtually untreatable."

Because treatment of MDR-TB can be up to 200 times more expensive than for drug-susceptible TB, Evans said it is urgent for the world to come up with a new vaccine to prevent the deadly illness. Evans said that while 14 candidates of vaccines are currently in clinical trials, the burden of financing the important research has become too great.

"In order to maintain momentum and develop effective TB vaccines as quickly and efficiently as possible, new funders must step up, particularly in the emerging economies of Asia, where the disease is endemic," Evans said, according to Le Monde. "Lives are at stake, and so is the economic health of nations throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and southern Africa, where the disease is exacting a terrible toll. In India alone, 1,000 people die of TB every day. In the history on humankind's battle against disease, similar moments have led global leaders to scale-up investments in the search for vaccines against deadly infectious diseases, with great success. It is time to do it again."