Clinical trials are underway with the first new vaccine against TB in more than 80 years. If successful, treatment could be available within 8 years.

MVA85A, which is being developed by Helen McShane, BSc, MBBS, MRCP, PhD, a Wellcome Trust senior clinical research fellow at Oxford, works in tandem with the current vaccine BCG, acting as a booster. It uses the 85A antigen, a protein found in all strains of TB, to boost the response of T cells already primed by the BCG vaccine. Clinical trials to date show the highest T cell responses ever triggered by a vaccine.

“This vaccine is safe and stimulates very high levels of the type of immune response we think we need to protect against TB, says McShane. It is important for us to test whether or not this vaccine does work to stop people getting TB.”

Following successful safety trials in The Gambia, the drug has now entered phase II trials in The Western Cape in South Africa, where the incidence of TB disease in infants is 1 in 100 even among those who have been given the BCG vaccination.