Experimental tuberculosis vaccine proves itself effective

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The structure of the smallpox vaccine is what gave rise to what is used today as the modern vaccine, and it is what has protected billions of people worldwide from various infections and diseases.    Photo via pexels.com.

The structure of the smallpox vaccine is what gave rise to what is used today as the modern vaccine, and it is what has protected billions of people worldwide from various infections and diseases. Photo via pexels.com.

Ever since Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccine in 1798, the world was forever changed. The structure of the smallpox vaccine is what gave rise to what is used today as the modern vaccine, and it is what has protected billions of people worldwide from various infections and diseases. 

On Oct. 29, scientists reported that there is a new, experimental vaccine that will work to protect people against tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization, is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. It is an airborne illness, meaning that it can be spread when people simply cough, sneeze or spit. 

This will be monumental if this vaccine can actually be used. Many people die each day because of tuberculosis, and it will help the entire world if this vaccine is effective. 

Currently, the vaccine only has a 50% success rate. Compared to a widely used, effective vaccine, such as measles, which has a 98% success rate, it is not even close to being perfect. However, it has proven to be helpful in clinical trials. Hopefully with this model, scientists will be able to improve on this idea to, in the future, create a better vaccine. 

The way vaccines work is that molecules from the pathogen or disease, called antigens, are inserted into the body. This way, the body learns to recognize them and learns how to produce antibodies that can help combat them if the body ever actually comes into contact with the bacteria. Although it is never completely perfect, and some argue vehemently against vaccines, they are incredibly helpful, and there is absolutely no research that supports adverse effects of vaccines. 

If a vaccine is developed for tuberculosis, it will benefit everyone. Each year, about 10 million people contract tuberculosis, and approximately 1.6 million of these people die because of it. The tuberculosis vaccine has the potential of saving millions of people’s lives.  

Currently, there is a vaccine for tuberculosis. It is commonly known as the BCG vaccine, which combats tuberculosis in infants. It, however, is not used in the U.S., and it only protects infants against tuberculosis, not adults, who often contract the more common type. 

Tuberculosis mainly affects people in developing countries. A vaccine that prevents and reduces occurrences of this disease would greatly improve the conditions in these countries and hopefully create a chain reaction that would improve the healthcare in many developing nations. 

The more vaccines like this are researched, the more good will come out of them. As of now, the World Health Organization has a goal of decreasing tuberculosis occurrences each year by 4% to 5%, rather than the current yearly reduction of 2%. People should put more importance on this kind of scientific research because of how beneficial it will be.

In many countries, especially developed nations, people tend to succumb to something called “vaccine hesitancy,” which is where, for a variety of reasons, people refuse to get themselves as well as their children vaccinated. One of the most popular reasons is the incorrect belief that vaccines cause autism. 

This is backed up by no scientific evidence, and a thought such as this could easily prevent many people from getting the vaccines that they need in order to survive. A tuberculosis vaccine would be monumental, and people should not create false claims, because that will simply deter people from supporting this research. 

Although it is likely still far from being commercially used, it is exciting that a vaccine like this is showing such promising results in testing. Hopefully in the future, this vaccine will be widely used and will prevent generations in the future from contracting this illness. 


 Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.

 

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