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26 Aug 2019

Australian medical researchers from the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney have successfully developed and tested a new type of vaccine targeting tuberculosis (TB), the world’s top infectious disease killer.

Reported in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, the early-stage vaccine was shown to provide substantial protection against TB in a pre-clinical laboratory setting. The research program targeting the deadly disease has currently taken more than five years of effort to implement.

TB is caused by a bacterium that infects the lungs after it is inhaled, and it is highly contagious. The disease results in about 1.6 million deaths per year globally. An estimated two billion individuals are carrying TB and up to 10 per cent of these develop the disease in their lifetime. More than 50 per cent of TB cases occur in the Asia Pacific region.

Dr Anneliese Ashhurst, co-lead author of the study, created, with a team of scientists, the advanced synthetic TB vaccine. They have now demonstrated its effectiveness using mouse models.

“Two peptides (small proteins) which are normally found in tuberculosis bacteria were synthesised and then bound extremely tightly to an adjuvant (a stimulant) that was able to kick-start the immune response in the lungs,” Dr Ashhurst said.

“We were then able to show that when this vaccine was inhaled into the lungs, it stimulated the type of T cells known to protect against TB. Importantly, we then demonstrated that this type of vaccine could successfully protect against experimental airborne TB infection.”

There currently exists only one lone vaccine for TB (known as BCG) and this is only effective in reducing the risk of disease for infants.

The Centenary Institute is an independent medical research institute, closely affiliated to the University of Sydney and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.


Published: 26 Aug 2019