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SLU launches clinical trial for new tuberculosis vaccine

(Photo: CDC/ Dr. Ray Butler/Janice Haney Carr)
A colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the tuberculosis bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – Saint Louis University is launching a study of a potential new vaccine for tuberculosis.

The human clinical trial will test the safety of the new vaccine, and its ability to induce an immune response against TB.

There already is a TB vaccine that can protect people from developing some of the worst complications of the disease.

But SLU lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hoft said the existing vaccine can't prevent people from getting infected with TB in the first place.

"So what we'd like to do is develop a vaccine that can prevent infection, or even better, a vaccine that could work given to people after they get infected to upregulate their immune system to eradicate the infection."

Because of its limited efficacy, the current vaccine is usually only given where TB is most common, like Southeast Asia and Africa.

Hoft said the new vaccine has been genetically engineered to produce a stronger immune response.

"If it truly can prevent infection, or eradicate infection that's already established, that would be something that would be used in a much wider area, including at least high-risk populations in the United States."

Those in the U.S. at highest risk are immigrants from countries where TB is endemic, and residents of inner cities where crowded conditions facilitate the airborne spread of the disease, Hoft explained.

More than a third of the world's population is infected with TB bacteria, including about ten million Americans. Worldwide, almost two million people die from the disease each year, most of them in developing countries.

SLU's phase 1 clinical trial for the new TB vaccine is scheduled to begin before the end of the year. Anyone interested in participating can register for future follow up.

For more information about tuberculosis:

>>U.S. Centers for Disease Control (TB)

>>U.S. Centers for Disease Control (TB and HIV)

>> World Health Organization


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