KEMRI announces breakthrough in TB vaccine and treatment trials

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has announced significant milestones in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), a disease that claims about six percent of Kenyan lives every year.

KEMRI’s Centre for Respiratory Diseases Research (CRDR) has been conducting clinical trials for two promising TB vaccines for both adults and children.

The first vaccine, a recombinant BCG vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, is in Phase III trials and has enrolled 1,500 infants in Nairobi and Siaya counties.

The second vaccine, called m72, is also in Phase III trials and has shown an efficacy signal in a previous Phase II trial that involved 3,500 adults across several African countries. KEMRI hopes to participate in the upcoming licensure trial for m72, which was taken up by the Gates Medical Research Institute (GMRI).

If successful, these vaccines have a high potential to be adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and used for TB prevention globally.

In addition to vaccine research, KEMRI has been working on improving TB diagnosis and treatment. The institute has contributed to reducing the treatment period for TB from 18 to six months and is now aiming to shorten it further to four months.

Moreover, researchers at KEMRI, in collaboration with partners, are developing a novel technology to support TB diagnosis in children. The study aims to find the best ways to diagnose TB in children using a system that will be able to confirm the presence of TB in small amounts of blood obtained by checking for extracellular vesicles as well as accessing the presence of TB cell-free DNA in urine and blood.

If successful, TB will be detected in less invasive specimen types, which will highly contribute to increasing diagnosis in children.

Kemri’s announcement came on World TB Day, observed annually on March 24 to raise awareness about TB and efforts to end the global epidemic.

The theme of World TB Day 2023, “Yes! We can end TB!” conveys a message of hope and urgency for high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration. It is a reminder that significant progress is being made in the fight against TB, and with continued efforts, the disease can be eradicated.

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