A collaborative research project between the Walter Sisulu and North West universities has made a breakthrough in developing a tuberculosis vaccine.
Researchers conducted three different immunogenicity studies in two animal models where the vaccine showed 100% protection.
Tuberculosis kills more than 55 000 South Africans every year, an average of 153 people a day.
It is a curable disease and could now be on the verge of being preventable following progress made in developing a vaccine.
The project manager of the South African vaccine platform for infectious diseases initiative, Professor Anne Grobler, explains the process.
“What we do is we infect specific animals models with the bacteria or with a TB live and then you see how protected animals react against the disease. In this case we use an animal model specifically such as from tuberculosis which mimics the human condition we’ve really used quite a lot of number of animals to confirm it. So, we’ve done 12 different groups of animals to confirm our results.”
Professor Markus Depfenhart is the inventor and driving force behind the concept.
“The idea was born to develop a new vaccine against tuberculosis and I very early had the feeling that a combination of COVID-19 and tuberculosis could be beneficial. It seems to be there is some synergy that the one is ventic to the others and some recent studies by the way that if you infect a special mouse model sensitive for COVID-19 because a normal mouse does not get COVID-19 and if you take them first with tuberculosis then they don’t get COVID-19, so there is a synergy, a synergistic protection.”
The Chief Executive Officer of TB HIV Care, Professor Harry Hausler, says there are still strides to be made in the fight against TB.
“We are not doing enough to prevent TB, we need to also make sure that those people who are eligible for what’s called TB preventive therapy have access to it. There are new TB preventative therapy guidelines that were released this year that explain who is eligible for TB preventive therapy and that includes people living with HIV but also any close contact of a person who has TB for example, someone who lives in the same household or spent a lot of time with someone with TB, is eligible for what called TB preventative therapy.”
The next step is to start with human trials.
Preparations to discuss the issue with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority are under way.
A set of standards and protocols must also be set up and agreed to. – Reporting by Sinethemba Witi