Researchers have improved the effectiveness of the vaccine for tuberculosis. The work was done by Nele Festjens and Nico Callewaert of VIB and Ghent University.
The new vaccine affords - as already proven in mice - better protection against the disease.
"Our vaccine is more effective because it is more quickly recognized by the immune system of the vaccinated person. We have, as it were, undressed the existing vaccine by removing its protective shield," said Nico Callewaert.
The bacterium from which the BCG vaccine is derived hides as it were from the immune system of the organism in which it ends up. This may well be the reason why the vaccine is not very effective. The fact is that a vaccine is meant to trigger an immune reaction in order to be able to afford good protection.
Festjens and Callewaert have discovered that the bacterium hides behind the SapM enzyme that acts as a kind of shield.
They have used this knowledge to develop a new vaccine. They adapted Mycobacterium bovis BCG in such a way that it was no longer able to generate SapM and could therefore no longer hide from the immune system. Testing the new vaccine on mice has shown that it affords better protection than the present BCG vaccine.