The Scourge of Tuberculosis

Monday, August 17, 2009

Regarding the Aug. 11 Metro article "Child's TB Complicates Adoption by Va. Family":

Harper Yue Ye's story highlights a disease that devastates many families, especially in developing countries. Annually, about 9.3 million people become sick with tuberculosis (TB), and 1.8 million die from the disease, the majority in Asia and Africa. In China alone, 1.3 million people became ill with TB in 2007.

Recent studies show that we cannot eliminate TB without a better vaccine, better drugs and better diagnostics. The current vaccine against TB, Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), is one of the most widely used in the world and is routinely administered to children in China and other countries. But it is not very effective. It helps protect young children against severe forms of TB, but it is unreliable against pulmonary TB, the most common form.

There is hope. Scientists around the world are searching for better TB vaccines, the goal being to eliminate TB from the planet by 2050. With several candidates undergoing clinical trials for safety and efficacy, more effective vaccines may be available by 2016 to prevent suffering like that of Harper and her parents, as well as countless other children and families.

JERALD C. SADOFF

President and Chief Executive

Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation

Rockville


© 2009 The Washington Post Company