This is the first new tuberculosis (TB) vaccine developed in nearly 100 years.

Approximately 25% of people around the world have latent tuberculosis (TB) infections, according to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and TB is a leading cause of death worldwide. There were 10 million new TB cases in 2017, and 1.6 million deaths attributable to the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The only vaccine for TB available today is BCG (bacille Calmette-Guerin), which was first used in 1921. It doesn’t provide “proven and consistent” protection, however, according to GSK. While it isn’t generally recommended in the US, according to the WHO worldwide BCG is one of the most widely used vaccines.

An improved vaccine could help reduce the spread of TB, including drug-resistant tuberculosis. GSK and its partner Aeras, a global nonprofit advancing TB vaccine development, are working to develop a new option designed to prevent the progression from latent TB infection to active disease and illness. The two organizations announced recently that early results from a phase 2b trail suggest that the new TB vaccine has real promise and may be a better alternative to BCG. 

Primary results of the phase 2b study, which involved 3,573 HIV-negative adults at 11 sites in South Africa, Zambia and Kenya, included an overall vaccine efficacy rate of 54%. Ten people treated with the vaccine developed active pulmonary tuberculosis compared to 22 in the placebo group.

Further testing is still needed, but GSK considered these early results to “represent a significant innovation in the development of a new and much-needed vaccine and advance the scientific understanding of tuberculosis,” according to GSK vaccine R&D head Emmanuel Hanon.