Germans test first new TB vaccine for 80 years

Germans test first new TB vaccine for 80 years BerlinĀ  - Amid worldwide fears that tuberculosis is adapting to thwart existing drugs, Germany began human testing this week of what is described as the first new live vaccine against tuberculosis for more than 80 years.

The drug, named VPM1002, is a genetic refinement of the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine that has been used to immunize hundreds of millions of people since 1921.

"This has already proved more effective in preventing tuberculosis infection in animals," said Stefan Kaufmann of Germany's Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Infection in Berlin.

His laboratory and the Helmholtz Centre for Research on Infection said VPM1002 had been administered this week to human volunteers in the western German city of Neuss as a phase-one clinical study.

The Max Planck laboratory said 9 million people fall ill with tuberculosis round the globe every year and 2 million die of it, making it the world's most dangerous disease after AIDS.

Many strains of tuberculosis are resistant to antibiotics and other drugs.

BCG has the weakness that it is sometimes not recognized by the human immune system, whereas researchers hope VPM1002 will consistently cause a reaction and induce immunity to full-strength tuberculosis.

But Kaufmann cautioned that it could take another 10 years until VPM1002 wins regulatory approval for general use. (dpa)