Tuberculosis (TB) infects one-third of the world’s population, making it one of the most devastating infectious diseases.
On World TB Day March 24, McMaster’s infectious disease experts will join the world in emphasizing the urgent need for international TB vaccine development. Established by the World Health Organization, the day commemorates when Robert Koch announced 1882 that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch's discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB.
Researchers with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research are continuing Koch’s fight. For example, Zhou Xing, a professor in the McMaster Immunology Research Centre, is at the forefront of international TB vaccine development.
“Lung tuberculosis remains one of the leading infectious causes of death worldwide despite the century-long use of BCG vaccine,” says Xing. “Nine million people develop active TB disease and about two million die of TB each year and HIV-infected hosts are much more susceptible to TB. Understanding anti-TB mucosal immunity and developing new TB vaccination strategies has been a focus of my lab,” says Xing, who is also a member of Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine.
Xing’s lab has developed a novel TB vaccine that boosts protective immunity in the lung following BCG vaccination in the skin. After its successful evaluation in various animal models, one of these vaccine candidates entered human phase 1 clinical trials in 2009. The phase 1a trial led by Fiona Smaill, IIDR member and professor and chair of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, and Xing, along with other scientists in the McMaster Immunology Research Centre, will soon be completed.
Other IIDR researchers studying TB include Tim O’Shea, a clinical scholar of internal medicine, and Marek Smieja, associate professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, among others.