Thursday, March 12, 2009

Improved efficacy of tuberculosis vaccine ?

We know that BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin) is a live but weakened form of a bacterium, M. bovis, which causes tuberculosis in cattle. It is sufficiently related to the human pathogen to stimulate production of specialized immune cells that fight off TB infection when it is injected into a person as a vaccine. The bacilli have retained enough strong antigenicity to become a somewhat effective vaccine for the prevention of human tuberculosis. At best, the BCG vaccine is 80% effective in preventing tuberculosis for a duration of 15 years, however, its protective effect appears to vary according to geography.

Many attempts have been made to improve the vaccine by incorporating antigens (molecular components of the bacteria) to induce a stronger immune response. However, tuberculosis and BCG have evasive mechanisms that prevent the development of stronger immune responses. We read oftenly in news paper, about the drug resistant strains and use of combined drugs. Now thanx to the two research groups from UT Health Science Center at Houston. The importance of this research is in the fact that the two groups investigated mechanisms by which BCG evades immune stimulating mechanisms and devised two means to neutralize them.

1. scientists used genetically-modified organisms and
2. a drug used for organ transplantation (Rapamycin, see the structure)to block BCG's evasive mechanisms, causing it to induce stronger immune responses.

This dual approach to the BCG vaccine was associated with a tenfold increase in the number of TB organisms killed and a threefold increase in the duration of protection in tests with an NIH-approved mouse model, Dr. Jagannath said.

The research is of great importance because of the fact that "it has countered the ability of TB organisms to subvert immunization", (Tuberculosis hides in cells so the antigens are not recognized by the immune system. The BCG vaccine also does the same thing). The role of the drug is of great importance, i.e., it modulates the movement of particles in cells, would cause BCG antigens to enter pathways leading to improved immunization. I would say one more significant contribution(or else one more serendipity !) of the drug apart from bieng used in 1. treatment of cancer and inflammation 2. in significantly reducing the frequency of acute kidney transplant rejection.

Though further research to substantiate the claim is essential. Its a good beginning in this direction for the improved efficay of the vaccine.. Congrats Dr. Jagannath and group.. More...

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