News / Health

Improved TB Vaccine in Works as Global Infection Rates Fall

Children participate in the launch of a global plan to stop tuberculosis, in Alexandra Township, north of Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2010. (file photo)
Children participate in the launch of a global plan to stop tuberculosis, in Alexandra Township, north of Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2010. (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Gabe Joselow

With tuberculosis infection rates falling around the world, health officials are pressing to build on those gains. One project in development aims to create a better vaccine to stop the disease for good.

The latest World Health Organization report on tuberculosis shows the number of people contracting the disease fell to 8.8 million in 2010, down from nine million five years earlier. Most of those gains have been made in some of the worst-affected areas of East Africa - notably Kenya and Tanzania.

Better treatment is largely responsible for decreased infection rates. Medical officials are not just looking for ways to treat TB, however, but to prevent it altogether.  

Intensified vaccine initiative

There are several projects underway to create a more effective vaccine. The WHO says there are 10 top contenders being tested right now. One of them has been developed by the U.S.-based company Aeras.

“Our aim is to enroll 4,000 infants by the end of next year and hopefully we'll have a vaccine that works better than the current vaccine," said Vicky Cardenas, a clinical product director for Aeras, which currently is testing its new drug in five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. "The current vaccine is called BCG and it's delivered at birth to infants, but it doesn't protect very well against pulmonary tuberculosis and it doesn't protect adults against tuberculosis.”


The current vaccine, BCG has been in use since 1921. Many of the treatments are at least 50 years old, and TB infections are becoming resistant to traditional medications. The new Aeras vaccine, known as Aeras-402, is in an advanced stage of its trial, and the company hopes to have a drug on the market by 2020.

Clinical trials in Kenya

Aeras is conducting clinical tests of the drug in the town of Kisumu in western Kenya at a clinic run by the Centers for Disease Control and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

Cardenas said one of the reasons they chose Kenya for the trial is because of the country's influence in the region.

“What I was finding when I was working with Malaria vaccines is that most countries say, 'I'm not going to buy it unless you've tested it in my population.' So we have to overcome that barrier, because we obviously cannot test it in 192 countries," she said. "So what we like to do is to find countries that are like the opinion leaders for the region, and so Kenya, that's what we feel about Kenya, Kenya can lead the other countries."

Kenya also is an important testing ground because of the high risk that TB poses in to HIV-infected patients. The WHO says 41 percent of people infected with tuberculosis in Kenya also have HIV. The combination of the two diseases often is fatal.

Cross-treatment, funding

Grace Kiringa, a Kenyan doctor working on the Aeras vaccine project, said, “Of all the TB cases that we've found, about 22 percent of them were HIV infected. And yet, the HIV-infected babies are only like 60 out of a group of about 3,000 babies, yet they contribute 22 percent of the TB cases. So they're definitely at risk of contracting TB and actually, the sad thing is that most of them die before we can get the intervention to them."

According to WHO data, of the 22 so-called high-burden countries, where TB is most prevalent, nine are in Sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa is the worst-affected with 213,000 cases, followed by Kenya, with 97,000. Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia also are among the high-burden countries.

WHO says that while TB infection rates have dropped, the organization says more funding is still needed to extend treatment to more patients, particularly those with a drug-resistant strain of the disease.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid