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New Vaccine To Fight Tuberculosis

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The vaccine to fight tuberculosis (TB) before and after infection has been developed by Danish  scientists.

It could offer protection for many years more than is now possible.

TB is a huge global problem, particularly in developing countries, where access to  antibiotics to treat the disease is limited.

The latest vaccine, so far tested in animals, is featured in the journal Nature  Medicine.

TB is a disease of the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, chest pains and  weight loss. Untreated, it can be deadly.

However, only in a small number of cases – fewer than 5% – do the symptoms develop  immediately after infection.

In more than 90% of cases, once Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium which  causes the disease, has invaded the body it changes its chemical signature, and  lives in a dormant – or “latent” – state.

Usually the bacterium never emerges from this latent state, but in around 10% of  cases it reactivates – often years or even decades later – to trigger severe  symptoms.

Current vaccines, such as the BCG vaccine, work only if given before exposure to the  bacterium.

They do not prevent infection, but do prevent acute symptoms and disease from  emerging.

But once the bacterium has changed into its latent form it is effectively immune to  the vaccine, and can bide its time, reactivating after the vaccine has ceased to  have a preventative effect.

If successful in human trials, the new vaccine would be able to tackle that problem.

Developed by a team at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, it combines  proteins that trigger an immune response to both the active and latent forms of  Mycobacterium.

Researcher Professor Peter Lawætz Andersen said: “It might be possible to give a  booster jab post-exposure to older children or even young adults which would protect  them well into adulthood.”

Although TB can be treated with antibiotics, those drugs are often not easily  accessible in the developing world, where the new vaccine could have the greatest  benefit.

Professor Andersen said: “In these areas you cannot go in and treat more than half  the local population. For instance, in Capetown 60% of people are thought to be  infected.”

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Updated 7 Years ago

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