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Delivering TB Vaccine Intravenously Dramatically Improves Potency, Study Shows

By Donovan Wilkins

Contributing Writer | Telegraph Local 


According to a new study, a new injection method gives the tuberculosis vaccine a more effective way to protect the body. The study was conducted and led by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Their findings were published in Nature on Wednesday. Their studies, which were conducted on monkeys, found the decades-old TB vaccine proved to be much stronger when injected directly into the vein rather than under the skin.

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Based on the findings from the study, 9 out of 10 monkeys were completely protected six months after being injected with the TB vaccine. TB kills more people in the world than any other kind of infectious disease. The recent discovery isn’t too far fetched in the medical world with similar unusual discoveries. In Africa, an experimental malaria vaccine was found to be more effective when injected directly into the veins. The current method of injecting the TB vaccine has been in use since 1921. Studies show the effectiveness of the vaccine is not long-lasting. The vaccine doesn’t protect teens and adults against lung-related illnesses, the type of TB deaths that are common.

The recent study shows promise among the medical community but does require more concrete testing. “If this is shown to be as efficacious in humans as it is in the monkeys, the potential will be huge,” said Dr. Mario C. Raviglione, director of the University of Milan’s Global Health Center and a former director of the World Health Organization’s tuberculosis programs. Dr. Mario C. Raviglione was among the few medical officials who saw promise within the study. Dr. Mel Spigelman, president of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, called the study “exciting research with quite a bit of promise,” while Dr. Nazir Ismail, chief of TB research at South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases, said it “moves the TB world a huge leap forward.”

As successful as the study was, there were certain parts that have to be taken into account. Many health officials are concerned about the six-month gap between the study. Many wonder how long the protection lasts after being tested only after 6 months. Another major obstacle includes the human factor. Some cases didn’t fare well in cancer patients.

One patient died, one had to be treated with anti-tuberculosis drugs, and two suffered anaphylactic reactions but recovered after being injected, accidentally or deliberately, with the BCG vaccine. In the study, researchers tested the effects of the vaccine in six different controlled groups of monkeys. Different groups got different levels of the vaccine. After six months, only the group that got their injections intravenously were protected.

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Medical officials hope to gain more insight into the effects of TB. According to medical records, tuberculosis tends to attack adolescents and infants. In the U.S. we think of TB as an old people’s disease,” Dr. JoAnn L. Flynn, a microbiologist at the Pitt Center for Vaccine Research and co-author of the study said. “But in the rest of the world, it’s mostly young adults.”

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