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Veterinary Medicine

CSU TB researchers partners in developing potential new vaccine

September 19, 2011

Tuberculosis researchers at Colorado State University recently partnered with Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University to develop a tuberculosis vaccine candidate that shows promise in initial studies of being potent and safe.

The discovery is part of a research article published in the early September edition of Nature Medicine

According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis – or TB-- kills about 1.7 million people each year and infects one out of three people around the globe. With drug-resistant strains spreading, a vaccine for preventing TB is urgently needed.

"Producing effective TB vaccines requires a better understanding of the mechanisms used by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacterial species that causes TB) to evade the body's immune responses," said senior author William Jacobs, Jr.,professor of microbiology and immunology and of genetics at Einstein and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He notes that the only currently used vaccine, the BCG, or Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine, has been notoriously inconsistent in protecting against TB.

Jacobs partnered with Colorado State University’s Ian Orme and Diane Ordway, who assisted in performing several experiments during study. Orme also is a champion in the TB research community to encourage organizations to fund studies of vaccines that are alternatives to the current vaccine.

As part of the study, the group took a bacterium closely related to the one that causes tuberculosis -- called M. smegmatis – and removed a set of genes called ESX-3. They inserted the analogous set of M. tuberculosis ESX-3 genes. They then tested the “new” bacteria against tuberculosis infection as an rudimentary vaccine, and the results showed that the strain may provide some level of protection against TB. More work is needed to improve the strategy as a vaccine, and although the “vaccine” worked in laboratory tests, researchers don’t know yet if it will work in humans.

The group's paper is titled "A recombinant Mycobacterium smegmatis induces potent bactericidal immunity against M. tuberculosis." The research was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.


Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
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