Officials at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently outlined the organization’s efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB), one of the world’s most serious infectious diseases.
In a joint statement, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and other NIAID officials said the development of a safe and highly effective vaccine against TB is critical. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1.8 million people worldwide died in 2015 of TB, which is transmitted through the air and primarily affects the lungs.
“Currently, the only available vaccine against TB is bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), developed in 1921. While this vaccine offers protection against disseminated disease and death in children, it is much less effective against the transmissible pulmonary form of the disease in adults,” said the NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
NIAID said it is focused on finding innovative approaches toward developing a TB vaccine by supporting research at the basic, preclinical and clinical development levels.
One serious cause for concern raised by the authors was the rise of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, stating that XDR-TB was even more difficult to treat than the MDR strain. Currently, NIAID is contributing to the National Action Plan for Combating MDR-TB through various support research into diagnostics and new antibiotics.
To address a lack of treatment options, NIAID’s HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Networks will be testing the efficacy of the drug bedaquiline against the MDR-TB strain. A combination therapy using both bedaquiline and delamanid will also soon be tested against MDR-TB as well.
Due to the costly and time-consuming nature of in-home visits by health care professionals, the authors said NIAID is funding trials to investigate if mobile technology could adequately monitor a patient’s drug regimen.
NIAID’s Tuberculosis Research Units Network program recently helped identify biomarkers that identify various stages of infection, serving as a key diagnostic tool for the disease.