TB is a global epidemic that has targeted people living in developing countries where antibiotics are not sufficiently available to treat the millions who are infected. Surprisingly, there has been a sharp rise in the number infected even in developed countries with the UK topping 9,000 in 2009. The Health Protection Agency has warned of a sharp rise in drug-resistant TB cases.
TB is a disease of the lungs, with coughing, chest pains and weight loss as its symptoms. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis, after invading the body, continues to exist in a latent state. This latent stage enables it to become immune to vaccines as it waits to reactivate itself once the effects of the vaccine are gone. The reactivation can happen even after decades. The BCG which has been used is effective only if it is administered before exposure to the bacterium.
The new vaccine, however, combines proteins that trigger an immune response to both the active and latent forms of Mycobacterium.
The efficacy the new vaccine has been eagerly awaited by AIDS patients who face the threat of dying of TB because of their weakened immunity.
Professor Peter Davies, secretary of the group TB Alert, said: "A vaccine which can both protect against initial infection and protect from a breakdown of infection into disease is a major breakthrough."
The vaccine was featured in the leading medical journal 'Nature Medicine.'