Researchers are at the verge of getting a vaccine that might help in the fight against tuberculosis worldwide. This was disclosed at the ongoing 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health holding in Hyderabad, India. Speaking to journalists at a press conference to herald the beginning of the conference, Dr. Paula Fujiwara, Scientific Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), the host of the conference, said, “We are one more cautious, but exciting, step closer to a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB).
‘’A vaccine is the ultimate prevention tool and the announcement today (Tuesday) is welcome news, but as researchers discuss how to move the trial into its final phase, we simultaneously need to be doing all we can to prevent tuberculosis with medications that we already have at our disposal.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) says TB is the most challenging infectious disease that humankind faces. It is estimated that in the last 200 years it has killed one billion people and Nigeria is one of the eight countries where it is still prevalent.
Fujiwara added: “TB is a disease that is preventable, treatable and curable, yet last year it killed 1.5 million people, more than HIV/AIDS. We cannot end the TB emergency unless we dramatically scale up prevention in those parts of the world where we are treating it. The cost of inaction is more unnecessary suffering and death.”
India has the highest TB burden in the world with just over one in four of all estimated global cases reported. The Indian government has made the fight against TB a central priority and boldly pledged to end TB by 2025, five years before the globally agreed target. In demonstration of government’s commitment to this target, the Vice-President Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, will on Wednesday be the Chief Guest of the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health. He will officially inaugurate the conference at its opening ceremony.
The Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), José Luis Castro said: “We are delighted that the Vice-President of India has accepted our invitation to attend and formally open the conference. “We are at a critical juncture in the fight against TB epidemic in India and we are grateful for this incredible support from the Government of India, which is at the forefront of the global effort to end the emergency.” Up to 4,000 delegates including senior figures from government, health officials, doctors, researchers, nurses, TB survivors and civil society organisations from around the world, are expected to attend the Union World Conference.
Among these is film and television actress Claire Forlani who has accepted a role as ambassador for The Union and will also speak at the opening ceremony. The team of researchers has already concluded a critical phase of clinical trials and tested on more than 3,500 adults in TB endemic regions of South Africa, Kenya and Zambia. However, David Lewinsohn, a TB expert observed that the vaccine would need to be tested on a bigger level before being licensed. The target dated is 2028.
The WHO plans to reduce the number of new TB cases by 90% and the number of TB deaths by 95% between 2015 and 2035. Eight countries account for two thirds of global TB cases: India tops with (27%), while Nigeria and Bangladesh have (4%), China (9%), Indonesia (8%), the Philippines (6%), Pakistan (6%), and South Africa (3%). India records nearly three million new tuberculosis cases annually. Of this more than 100,000 are multi-drug resistant, according to the WHO.
Jamhoih Tonsing, director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease’s office in Delhi, said: “We cannot eliminate TB globally unless we end it in India. The number of people with TB in India is falling and that is good news. But let´s be honest – TB is still not falling nearly fast enough progress is still too slow to meet the targets. We need to step up the pace of treatment and prevention,” she said.