If you thought that tuberculosis was a long-eradicated disease of the past you’d be wrong. Although the bacterial infection is indeed ancient, it remains to this day one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and is highly contagious. Some good news, though: new research has found that changing the dose and route of administration of the TB vaccine could significantly enhance its ability to protect against infection.
This ‘represents a major step forward in the field of TB vaccine research’
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) administered the BCG vaccine to groups of rhesus macaque monkeys. The monkeys were given the vaccine via either ID (intradermal), AE (aerosol) or IV (intravenous) routes. Immune responses were assessed for a 24-week period following vaccination and it was found that IV BCG vaccination produced the best immunity. This was put to the test six months after vaccination when the researchers exposed the monkeys to a virulent strain of MTB. They tracked the disease development over three months and found that nine out of 10 monkeys vaccinated with IV BCG were highly protected.
The researchers believe this ‘represents a major step forward in the field of TB vaccine research’. If people can be effectively immunised against the disease, this provides hope that it could one day be eradicated and finally become a disease of the past, allowing travellers to visit, unafraid, parts of the globe that currently pose a risk.