Synthetic tuberculosis vaccines could end regional endemics

A tuberculosis revival is well underway following the pitchy overture of a washed-out vaccination therapy, or so an August 28 review in the Trends in Molecular Medicine publication contends.

"Tuberculosis is a global health threat, and it is a highly communicable disease that may influence practically anyone and everyone," senior author Javed Agrewala of the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology in Chandigarh, India, said in a news release. "There is a serious need and challenge for the scientific community to develop alternative vaccination approaches for the control of the disease."

Approximately one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and nearly two million deaths each year are caused by the disease. Agrewala and his colleagues cite the current vaccine -- Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) -- as the perpetrator of Mtb’s continued endemic presence in adults from various regions across the globe.

Argewala posits that BCG is not as effective in regions characterized with endemic status because exposure to prevalent mycobacterial strains instigates the production of antibodies that, in turn, antagonize the vaccine. Additionally, infections enacted by helminthes (a kind of parasitic worm) disrupt the protective immune response that BCG is intended to instill.

To conquer the aforementioned pitfalls, the review proposes that the use of the new lipidated-promiscuous-peptide vaccines be sanctioned and put into circuit as soon as possible. Such synthetic vaccines are reportedly safer than BCG, Agrewala argues, as they do not contain any sort of infectious material; they are also thought to generate long-lasting, protective immune responses and are not easily swayed by pre-existing antibodies. Human trials are currently underway now that animal model experiments on tuberculosis have proven successful. It is expected that the human testing of the novel vaccines will be done not only on Mtb, but cancer and other infectious diseases as well.

"We believe that lipidated-promiscuous-peptide vaccines have all the essential qualities that can make them successful in tuberculosis-endemic countries," Agrewala concluded. "Such vaccines can impart better protection than BCG and will have a long-reaching positive impact on millions of people."

Image courtesy of Y tambe via Creative Commons licensing. 

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