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U.S. Should Provide More Leadership In Finding TB Vaccine, Opinion Piece Says

Tuberculosis deserves an effort as “substantial” as the one mounted against swine flu “to develop a new vaccine,” David McMurray, a TB expert at Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece. “Since April, … nearly one million men, women and children have died from TB, compared to 4,200 who have died from H1N1 flu globally. Why didn’t you see any headlines? Because 98 percent of the nearly two million people who die each year from TB live in the developing world, in places like Kenya … Yet TB continues to be a problem in [the U.S.] as well because in an age of globalization, germs cross borders without a passport,” McMurray writes.

Although the “U.S. established itself as a global leader in HIV/AIDS response with the implementation of” PEPFAR, so far, “the government has failed to take up TB vaccine research as a priority funding area, despite prominent U.S. government leadership on HIV and malaria vaccine research,” according to McMurray. He notes that the “U.S. government has made substantial investment in infectious disease research and prevention, notably the construction of a high-containment Biosafety Level 4 laboratory” which could “play an important role in testing new TB vaccine candidates against the most virulent strains of drug-resistant TB.” But to support the creation of new TB vaccines, “much more needs to be done,” he says.

“We have confidence that the enormous resources invested to speed new vaccines for H1N1 will help protect us and our families from this recent headline-grabbing scare. Let’s do the same to stop TB,” McMurray concludes (10/7).