March 24 is World TB Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis (TB) worldwide and the status of TB prevention and care efforts. It is also an opportunity to mobilize political and social commitment for further progress in efforts to end TB.
TB is the top infectious killer worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and there were 1.8 million TB deaths in 2015.
It is the second year of a two-year “Unite to End TB Campaign.” WHO will place a special focus on uniting efforts to “Leave No One Behind”, including actions to address stigma, discrimination, marginalization and overcome barriers to access care.
In recognition of World TB Day, Zhou Xing, IIDR member and professor, Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine at McMaster, shares how his research is helping to end TB. In 2013, Xing collaborated with Fiona Smaill, fellow IIDR member and professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, in publishing their first clinical TB vaccine study. Zhou shares the progress they have made since 2013:
We have been developing the novel virus-based TB vaccines to be directly delivered to the lung, the site of TB infection. One of such candidate vaccines was successfully evaluated in human volunteers following an injection to the muscle in 2013. In the last couple of years, together with other scientists at McMaster, we have developed the technology that allows us to safely and effectively deliver this vaccine to the human lung.
Another clinical vaccine trial has been planned and approved by Health Canada. We hope to be able to launch this study before long. In this second trial, we will evaluate the vaccine delivered to human lungs by inhaled aerosol. The safety and immune data from this study will help us to move the technology to the next stage of clinical evaluation, in partnership with a biotechnology company in China and the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation. This candidate vaccine is the only vaccine from Canada among a dozen or so TB vaccines that are currently in the global clinical TB vaccine pipeline.
Charu Kaushic, IIDR member and professor, Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine is the director of Biocontainment Level 3 (BSL3) laboratory at McMaster. The BSL3 allows for cutting-edge research on TB. She shares McMaster University’s effort to enable TB vaccine research:
Although TB is widely considered to be a major health problem primarily in the developing countries, we at IIDR believe, as global leaders in the area of infectious diseases, it is our responsibility as scientists who have the best resources and expertise available, to address TB and other infectious diseases, from a global perspective. For this reason McMaster University recently invested in a brand new $3.5M, highly specialized Biocontainment Level 3 laboratory, which was commissioned in 2013 and allows us to conduct cutting-edge research on TB and other CL3 infectious agents. Our efforts are in keeping this year’s theme to “Unite to End TB” and “Leave no one behind.”