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New TB Vaccine Could Save 8.5 Million Lives: What We Know

Dr Rohit Bhaskar
Dr Rohit Bhaskar
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A “game-changing” tuberculosis (TB) vaccine has reached phase three trials and could save 8.5 million lives over 25 years if proven effective. 

TB remains one of the world’s most deadly diseases, and the second leading infectious killer after Covid-19. In 2021, it led to 1.6 million deaths and affected 10.6 million people worldwide. 

However, there have been no new vaccines for the disease in more than 100 years.

The Baccilus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine was introduced in 1921 and while it helps protect babies and young children against severe systemic forms of TB, it offers limited protection among adolescents and adults.

The new M72 vaccine is aimed at preventing latent infections in adults and adolescents from developing into full-blown illness. Latent TB is when a person is infected with the bacterium that causes TB but does not have any symptoms. Up to a quarter of the world’s population is thought to have latent TB.

Earlier trials of M72 have shown approximately 50 per cent efficacy in reducing pulmonary TB in adults with latent infections — considered an unprecedented result in decades of research.

Over 25 years, a vaccine with at least 50 per cent efficacy could prevent up to 76 million new TB cases and 8.5 million deaths, and avert the need for 42 million courses of antibiotic treatment, according to the World Health Organization.

“The tuberculosis crisis demands a new vaccine to reduce disease transmission and avoidable death, especially targeting adults and adolescents who carry at least 90 per cent of the TB epidemic’s burden,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general.

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