Tuberculosis vaccines: past, present and future

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The current vaccine against tuberculosis protects against severe forms of the disease in children but confers variable effectiveness against pulmonary disease. With tuberculosis eradication on the horizon new vaccines with better protection than Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) are needed. This review will outline the most promising tuberculosis vaccine candidates from selected publications.

Recent findings

The enormous effort of the scientific community in the last 10 years has generated hundreds of tuberculosis vaccine candidates. These include sub-unit vaccines and live vaccines such as recombinant BCG and other attenuated live vaccines. Some of these are being included for the first time in phase I clinical trials.

Summary

For more than 80 years now no new tuberculosis vaccine has successfully been developed. There is now renewed optimism that vaccines superior to BCG can be developed in the coming years. The goal is to obtain a new generation of vaccines effective against more transmissible forms of tuberculosis. As a first step, good candidate vaccines able to boost BCG and improve BCG protection could be a reality in the near future. Tuberculosis vaccine candidates, able to replace the currently used BCG and make the eradication of tuberculosis feasible, can be expected in the mid-term, and live vaccines are reliable and promising candidates.

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