4 March 2020 Best paper award for UCT TB vaccine research

7 Mar 2020 - 09:00

The International Society for Vaccines (ISV) has selected a publication in which UCT’s Professors Mark Hatherill, Robert Wilkinson, Tom Scriba, Drs. Michèle Tameris and Friedrich Thienemann (UCT, Faculty of Health Sciences) played a key role, as the best paper of the year for 2019.

The paper titled “Final Analysis of a Trial of M72/AS01E Vaccine to Prevent Tuberculosis”, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (Tait et al, 2019), reported the efficacy and safety of the M72/AS01E TB vaccine candidate, showing that the vaccine candidate was able to protect 50% more participants who received the vaccine against developing TB at the end of three years than those who received a placebo.  This plaudit follows recognition by ISV of the paper co-authored by these researchers reporting the two-year primary analyses of the same vaccine trial (Van der Meeren et al, 2018), as the best paper in the previous year.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) kills more people worldwide than any single infectious pathogen, yet the only vaccine licensed against TB, Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG), is approaching its centenary. The BCG vaccine, despite offering highly variable protection against adult type pulmonary TB, affords consistent protection to infants against the more serious forms of TB.

This paper (Tait et al, 2019) reported the final results of a 3-year study of the M72/AS01E protein-subunit vaccine candidate, developed by GlaxoSmith-Kline and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). The study was conducted at 11 sites in South Africa, Kenya and Zambia, including the UCT-based South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) and Centre for Infectious Diseases in Africa (CIDRI-Africa).

The vaccine provided 50% protection against progression from Mtb infection to TB disease in latently infected adults. The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 23% of the global population is infected with Mtb, and in high disease-burdened areas, this figure can be as high as 80%. People with latent TB are therefore an important group for new TB control strategies, because they are at risk of progressing from infection to active TB disease later in life. Developing a vaccine that protects this group from disease progression could be a game changer, because prevention is better than cure. 

Given the scale of the global TB epidemic and the slow pace of TB control efforts, the development of an effective TB vaccine is needed urgently to achieve End TB campaign targets.

For more information about the ISV Paper of the Year, go to: