News FocusInfectious Disease

Taking a New Shot At a TB Vaccine

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Science  16 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6062, pp. 1488-1490
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6062.1488

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For many people around the globe, there's only one line of defense against Mycobacterium tuberculosis: a shot of a 90-year-old problematic vaccine that they get shortly after birth. The emergence and rapid spread of multidrug-resistant strains of M. tuberculosis and the United Nations's goal of halving TB deaths by 2015 have led to an influx of private and public money to develop a new vaccine. Now the most advanced of these candidates are entering their first human efficacy trials. But with this new hope come challenges. Researchers are wrestling with how to select the best candidates to advance to much larger trials—and they are wondering how to pay for those final rounds of testing. Nor are there any guarantees of success at the end of this road. A human trial of one new tuberculosis vaccine was halted at the end of September because of apparent side effects.

  • * Kai Kupferschmidt is a science writer in Berlin.