March 29, 2011
Almost 2,800 babies are enrolled in a two-year study of a TB vaccine candidate hailed by some as the most exciting advance since the 1921 debut of the BCG vaccine, which is still used today.
MVA85A was developed at Oxford University. "This is the most advanced of all the new TB vaccine candidates by far," said World Health Organization scientist Uli Fruth. "There's a lot of hope about it."
The study is underway in Worcester, an area in South Africa's wine country about 75 miles northeast of Cape Town. Babies are receiving either the vaccine or a placebo and will be monitored for two years to check if they develop TB. The study's first results are expected in mid-2012.
If successful, MVA85A will move on to Phase III trials, which would involve around 20,000 people to determine its efficacy as a booster to BCG. Even if all goes well, it would be between 2016 and 2020 before the vaccine would come to market.
Furth called South Africa "the best place in the world to test such a new vaccine," given the country's research infrastructure and high TB burden. According to the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, which is managing the trial, South Africa is second only to Swaziland in its TB rate. In the Western Cape region, some 900 per 100,000 people are TB-infected. In Worcester, one in 100 people develop TB annually.