Scientists have developed a new tuberculosis vaccine that targets proteins from both early and later stages of the disease. The new vaccine, called H56, prevents TB in infected mice more effectively than the current vaccine. These findings offer hope for a better defense against the disease, which kills nearly 2 million people every year. TB is a bacterial infection of the lungs caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is a leading cause of death among young adults worldwide. A vaccine called Bacille Calmette Guerin, or BCG, is currently used against TB. However, BCG is not completely effective, and can’t prevent reactivation of latent TB in people who carry the bacterium but don’t have disease symptoms.
Dr. Claus Aagaard and Dr. Peter Andersen at the Staten Serum Institut in Denmark, supported by an international team of collaborators, hypothesized that a vaccine targeting both the active and latent stages of TB might give better protection. They created a triple fusion protein called H56. It combines 2 proteins that the bacteria produces in the early stages of infection with another produced during later-stage infection. The study was funded by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For more information see http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/january2011/01312011tuberculosis.htm