Image: The Global Fund

Many people think tuberculosis (TB) is a disease of the past, but in reality, over 2 billion people are currently infected with TB bacteria – roughly one-third of the world’s population. In 2014 alone, TB killed 1.5 million people, and remains the leading killer of people with HIV. The disease often affects people during their most economically and reproductively active years, causing a substantial burden on children and families. Nearly 10 million children have been orphaned because of TB.

Currently the only available vaccine was invented over 100 years ago!

However, it fails to protect against the most common form of the disease, which is TB of the lungs and also it is not recommended for use in infants with HIV because it can make them sick.

On the World Immunisation Week we need to think about the urgent need of a new vaccine for TB.

Benefits of a new TB Vaccine

There are many benefits of new, safer TB vaccines::

  • Stopping the spread of the disease, including MDR-TB.
  • Saving the lives of millions of people, including people living with HIV.
  • Bringing down the cost of treatment and reducing the financial and economic burden of TB on patients, families, communities, and national economies.

The way forward on TB

Preventing the current 1.5 million deaths from per year from TB will require:

  • Actively seeking and testing people who are vulnerable to having TB.
  • Improved diagnostic methods to ensure faster, more accurate identification of TB, especially if it is drug-resistant.
  • Developing more effective medications, which reduce the time taken to treat TB (6-24 months) and have fewer side effects.
  • Developing a more effective vaccine to protect people at all ages from TB.

The role of the Global Fund

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is leading source of international finance for programs to prevent and treat TB and malaria. Although the Global Fund does not fund research and development programs, through its financial support for national programs to prevent and treat these diseases, the Global Fund has a vital role in making new vaccines and medications widely available and affordable, which will determine how many people are protected against these diseases in future.