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National Institute of Allergy and
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Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

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Collaboration Fuels Promising New Approach to a TB Vaccine

A team of European and U.S. researchers have found that a new vaccine strategy tested in mice provides improved protection from tuberculosis (TB) infection than the vaccine currently used in humans, known as BCG. Their findings were published online on January 23rd in the journal Nature Medicine.

Led by scientists at the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Denmark, the study was co-funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The NIAID support was through the TB Vaccine Testing and Research Materials program at Colorado State University, an initiative to speed the development of new TB vaccines and treatments.

Caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), TB remains one of the major causes of disability and death worldwide, with an estimated 1.7 million deaths in 2009 and increasing rates of drug-resistant disease. The BCG vaccine, the only one approved for human use, provides limited protection against immediate TB illness but does not prevent reactivation of latent infection, in which Mtb persists in human cells for years and may later develop into active disease.

In this study, researchers at SSI combined two proteins that had previously been tested with a new component, a stress response protein that Mtb produces during latent infection. This three-component vaccine, known as H56, was administered to uninfected mice before and after Mtb infection. The multistage vaccine not only protected against initial illness, but controlled reactivation of latent infection and reduced Mtb levels in the lungs more effectively than BCG alone. Because of the success of this study, the vaccine candidate is now entering clinical development.

For more information, see the NIAID Tuberculosis Web portal.

C Aagaard et al. A multistage tuberculosis vaccine that confers efficient protection before and after exposure. Nature Medicine. DOI: 10.1038/nm.2285 (2011).

Christine Sizemore, Ph.D., chief of the Tuberculosis, Leprosy and other Mycobacterial Diseases Section at NIAID, is available to comment on this article.

To schedule interviews, please contact Nalini Padmanabhan, 301-402-1663,

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

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Last Updated January 25, 2011

Last Reviewed January 31, 2011