Publicação: 9 de agosto de 2022
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No other infectious disease has killed more people than tuberculosis. Currently, only one vaccine is available to prevent severe courses: Bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG). However, it is not equally effective against all types of tuberculosis. Especially infants and immunocompromised patients are therefore in urgent need for more effective tuberculosis vaccines. A clinical trial in South Africa has now shown that the new vaccine candidate VPM1002, developed by Max Planck researcher Stefan H.E. Kaufmann and his team, is equally safe for newborns with and without HIV exposure and has fewer side effects compared to BCG.
At least 20 million people worldwide suffer from tuberculosis, according to World Health Organization (WHO), with 10 million new cases every year and about 1.5 million deaths annually. The disease is caused by mycobacteria, which predominantly affect the lungs, but can also infect any other organ. Tuberculosis is particularly common in low-income countries. Here, the WHO recommends that newborns be immunized against it as soon as possible, writes the Max Planck Institute in a press release.
First used 100 years ago, the BCG vaccine against the disease contains attenuated pathogens of cattle tuberculosis. “We know that BCG can prevent so-called tuberculous meningitis and miliary tuberculosis in infants with a 75 to 86 percent effectiveness rate. But this is not the case for the most common form of the disease, pulmonary tuberculosis, in all age groups. Here, BCG is only insufficiently effective,” explains Kaufmann, Emeritus Director at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences in Göttingen and the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin.
Since the 1990s, the infection biologist and his team have been working on an improved next-generation vaccine, called VPM1002. To achieve this, the researchers genetically modified the attenuated BCG vaccine strain so that immune cells can better recognize the pathogens. “We developed VPM1002 in no small part to combine increased safety with improved efficacy for immunocompromised children,” the Max Planck researcher reports.
Vaccine candidate VPM1002 is safe
The group of immunocompromised children includes, for example, HIV-exposed infants born to HIV-positive mothers. In a clinical trial in South Africa, an international research consortium including Kaufmann has now compared VPM1002 with BCG in HIV-exposed and non-HIV-exposed newborns. The study examined both the safety and the immune response induced – called immunogenicity – associated with the formation of immune cells and immunostimulatory proteins. The conclusion of the study: VPM1002 is safe in both HIV-exposed and non-HIV-exposed newborns, has fewer side effects than BCG, and elicits a similar immune response.