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Tuberculosis Update: Clinical Trial Success Could Lead To New Vaccine Against Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

Update Date: Jan 16, 2017 02:00 AM EST

According to the World Health Organization, in 2015, 10.4 million contracted tuberculosis and 1.8 million died from the disease. These alarming statistics coupled with the rise of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis are concerning health professionals. In the latest update regarding tuberculosis, scientists have found success in clinical trials for a possible new vaccine against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Currently, the vaccine used for tuberculosis (TB) was first used in 1921. Although the medication was able to treat TB, its side effects included the cause of TB for immunocompromised people. Adding the problem of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis to the mix, scientists are tackling the growing concern for a new vaccine to fight TB.

Bio-researchers from New Zealand have come up with a TB vaccine using so-called biobeads. These biobeads are natural polyesters that non-TB bacteria assemble into tiny spheres. The bio-researchers engineered these biobeads to carry antigens from a TB bacterium and are introduced to the immune system.

By introducing the biobeads to the immune system, the bio-researchers hope to induce cell-mediated immune responses.

The team conducted their research regarding the effectivity of biobeads as TB vaccines in TB-infected mice. The researchers used biobeads assembled by E. Coli bacteria attached with TB antigens. They observed that along with the TB antigens, the E. coli-assembled biobeads also produced E. coli proteins on the surface of the biobeads.

The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, hypothesized that if they use >mycobacteria<, tuberculosis-causing bacteria, to assemble biobeads, the surface would possible contain mycobacteria antigens and other antigens against TB. These then would potentially induce protective immunity and boost the immune response to the vaccine.

In order to prevent vaccine-caused tuberculosis, the bio-researchers used another strain of mycobacteria, M. smegmatis, to assemble the biobeads. M. smegmatis is a bacterium that would not cause tuberculosis but can produce antigens that will fight TB. A new cloning technique was developed to replicate enzymes responsible to the assembly of biobeads in mycobacteria.

According to Dr. Alex Heiser, principal investigator of the study, the mycobacteria biobeads injected in TB-infected mice was able to successfully kill and break the TB bacteria and purified the biobeads from TB. The use of the biobeads is more natural, biodegradable, and safer compared to other TB vaccines and drugs.

With the success of the mycobacteria biobeads, the researchers are looking into the improvement of the biobeads as a possible new vaccine against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Further studies are needed to improve the production and purification of the biobeads as vaccines. Using biobeads would also be cost-effective and highly-safe to use.

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