October 6, 2013
New Tuberculosis Vaccine Developed At McMaster University

A new tuberculosis vaccine that will aid in the global fight against the contagious disease has been developed by researchers at McMaster University.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a common and highly infectious disease usually caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue as well as significant finger clubbing. A tuberculosis infection commonly involves the lungs, causing some patients to cough up small amounts of blood. The current rate of death for tuberculosis is about four percent.

The advent of a tuberculosis vaccine is significant for stopping the spread of the highly contagious illness. Dr. Fiona Smaill, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster and lead researcher of the study, explains:

"Tuberculosis is a serious public health threat. One-third of world's population is infected with the organism that causes tuberculosis, and it remains the top infectious killer of people only secondary to HIV; yet, the current vaccine used to prevent it is ineffective."

Tuberculosis is spread when infected individuals with an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air.

The development of a tuberculosis vaccine is even more important considering the high incidence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, or TB that is resistant to many common antibiotics.

Researchers at McMaster University created the tuberculosis vaccine based on a genetically modified cold virus. Phase one of the clinical trials has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A previous tuberculosis vaccine also exists, the Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine. The new tuberculosis vaccine was developed to act as a booster to BCG vaccine. The new booster will reactivate immune elements that diminish over time following vaccination with the BCG vaccine.