Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

Happy 90th birthday, BCG!

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Jojanneke Nieuwenhuis, a regular contributor to JATB has sent in this nugget of history. The BCG vaccine turns 90 tomorrow. Read on.

One of the world’s most widely used vaccines, the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine that protects against tuberculosis, is celebrating its 90th birthday. The vaccine was first given to a human on June 18, 1921 and is currently being given to about 100 million children worldwide each year. Nonetheless, a new, safer and more effective TB vaccine is urgently needed.

BCG, the only currently available vaccine against tuberculosis, protects many children against severe forms of childhood TB. However, the vaccine is not safe for babies infected with HIV and it provides very limited protection against pulmonary TB in (young) adults. Research shows that a more effective vaccine, in partnership with more accurate diagnostics and more efficient drug therapies, would save tens of millions of lives.

Around 1.7 million people die of tuberculosis every year. Many millions more suffer from the disease that hampers parents’ ability to take care of their children and slows down economic growth. The cost of TB amounts to 0.52% of the world’s Gross National Income per year, several hundreds of billions of dollars and contributes to political instability, famine and security issues.

The World Health Organisation writes in a position paper on tuberculosis vaccines that “Despite its shortcomings, BCG vaccination is considered a life-saving and important part of standard TB control measures in most endemic countries.” Still, after 90 years of existence, we would like to allow BCG to retire. Let’s not wait for the BCG vaccine to see its 100th birthday but combine forces to find worthy successors.

Jojanneke Nieuwenhuis works at TBVI, an organisation that facilitates the development of more effective tuberculosis vaccines.

The views expressed here are entirely of the author.

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

June 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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