Professor Mark Hatherill said: "Although we have a licensed TB vaccine (BCG) that’s been in use for almost 100 years, it only offers partial protection against TB." An X-ray showing a pair of lungs infected with TB. Picture: REUTERS
Cape Town - According to statistics, one in 100 children develop tuberculosis each year in communities in the Western Cape and now a group of individuals has come together to test the safety of vaccines given to infants to reduce the risk of them being diagnosed with TB.

The director of the SA Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (Satvi), Professor Mark Hatherill, said: “Although we have a licensed TB vaccine (BCG) that’s been in use for almost 100 years, it only offers partial protection against TB. We need a new, more effective TB vaccine that offers better protection and which lasts into adulthood.”

The team tested the effectiveness of the MTBVAC in comparison to the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, in which both vaccines are used to fight TB and prevent children from being diagnosed with TB in their childhood.

Hatherill said that an estimated 10million people developed TB and 1.6million people died from the disease worldwide in 2017. About 10% of those TB cases are in children.

The Satvi, Biofabri, the University of Zaragoza in Spain and Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) worked together in the testing and announced promising new safety and immunogenicity results.

The testing of the MTBVAC took place at the Satvi field site in Worcester and the Satvi laboratory at UCT. A group of 18 healthy adults (between 18 and 50) were enrolled into a safety cohort first and then 36 healthy newborn infants were enrolled in a separate safety cohort to receive a dose of either BCG or MTBVAC.

Hatherill says the infants were then followed up for safety checks and immunology blood tests for one year and it was found that the immune response to MTBVAC was greater than BCG at the same dose, for up to one year after vaccination.

“The encouraging immune response to MTBVAC may be associated with better TB protection than BCG. The next step would be to test MTBVAC in a much bigger trial and in future, MTBVAC may also be tested in adults, to prevent adult-type TB that’s responsible for transmitting the disease to other people,” said Hatherill.

The spokesperson for TBVI, Jelle Thole, said: “A new vaccine against tuberculosis is urgently needed for all age groups. It’s very encouraging to see these promising results for a new vaccine.”


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Cape Argus