BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
THE Sixth Global Forum on Tuberculosis has warned that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is killing more people each year than HIV and Aids or malaria and by 2050, it would be the world’s leading health challenge.
This was said on Tuesday by virologist Philippe Sansonetti from the Institute Pasteur and College de France during official opening of the forum.
She revealed that TB drug resistance accounts for nearly a third of the 3 500 daily deaths from AMR, making development of a TB vaccine an essential strategy to reduce drug-resistance.
“We need vaccines because they protect against antibiotic resistance by reducing the burden of disease,” Sansonetti said.
Drug-resistant TB is a significant problem worldwide, and is caused by incorrect use of TB medication.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Zimbabwe office says there was growing evidence of AMR in the country.
A study by local epidemiologists following the 2018 cholera outbreak revealed that there had been high incidence of drug resistance which made it difficult to contain the disease using the usual antibiotics.
The situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in an upsurge in antimicrobial use.
Stakeholders at the Global TB vaccine meeting hosted by France called for public funding for TB vaccine research, which remains inadequate.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The pandemic has demonstrated the value of a multi-platform portfolio of vaccine candidates, including mRNA and viral vector technologies. This approach could transform vaccine development efforts for other diseases including TB.”
Among the essential elements needed to find a TB vaccine are public-private partnerships to bring together expertise and funding, and strong political leadership backed by substantial financial resources as well as equitable access to vaccines.
Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseasse said: “For decades, TB has been regarded as a disease of the poor and there are gaps on basic knowledge of the disease.”
To date, the only licensed TB vaccine is BCG, which was discovered 100 years ago and only provides moderate protection against severe forms of TB in babies and young children, but does not stop TB transmission in teens and adults.
There are currently 15 TB vaccine candidates, including three in phase three trials and two others preparing for Phase 3 trials.
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