Gates-backed TB vaccine trial faces moment of truth

The global fight against tuberculosis is about to yield some big news. Next week researchers are reporting results of a mid-stage study of the leading next-generation vaccines against TB, with supporters from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and elsewhere hoping for a breakthrough for populations at risk of infection. Reuters provided an analysis of the important trial and its significance in reducing some 1.4 million annual deaths from TB infections.

Preventing TB infection seems as crucial as ever amid concern that more cases of the illness are resistant to existing drugs. As the news service reports, the Gates-backed vaccine called MVA85A from the nonprofit Aeras is the leading hope of more than a dozen candidates in human studies. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) have less mature programs for vaccines against TB, which infects 9 million people annually and had its way without a new vaccine in more than 90 years.

Progress has been slow. Yet last year J&J grabbed an important FDA nod for Situro or bedaquiline, a new med for resistant TB cases.

"In my own personal view, I will consider this [trial] to be a landmark or a watershed," Peggy Johnston, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, told Reuters. "If it is negative, it would be the first trial we can demonstrate that yes, we can conduct a clinical trial and get a solid answer. If it turns out to be at all positive, it will be a clear watershed for the field."

The old BCG vaccine is injected in babies at risk of TB infection, the new service reported, but that shot won't block the common infections that afflict the lungs of patients later on in life. In the midstage MVA85A study, investigators want to know how well the vaccine reduces infection in patients that get both BCG and the experimental vaccine versus the BCG vaccine alone.

Count me among those who are rooting for a big success for the sake of patients whose lives are in jeopardy from the scourge of tuberculosis.  

- check out the Reuters article   

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