Pfizer suggests new way to fight deadly tuberculosis

Written by Cate Treene, CNN

Pfizer’s vaccine provided some protection against Omicron, a gene mutation that causes tuberculosis, according to a study conducted by the pharmaceutical company.

The researchers administered the cell-based vaccine, Pandemrix, to more than 4,000 people with severe malaria in 10 locations around the world. They found that it provided some protection against the disease, which can progress to severe infection if left untreated.

“We found some benefit in protected people with a wide range of settings, including some places where the vaccine wasn’t used before,” Pfizer’s Ewan Birney said in a statement. “It is interesting and important that the vaccine has a protective effect at all. The next steps are to expand it into further outbreaks to assess any long-term effect on death rates.”

Positive results

With the help of Shota Sato and his lab at The Scripps Research Institute, the experiment sought to find the ideal dose of the cell-based Pandemrix, as well as determine how many cells it takes to provide full protection.

In the first part of the study, the researchers looked at the levels of the genetic material (miRNA) presented in the blood of patients with Ebola, malaria, dengue and yellow fever, and found that more was needed for protection than previously believed.

This initial research showed the addition of omicron immunizing the patients proved effective. Study participants who were all vaccinated before the outbreak of Ebola were found to have a 50% higher likelihood of surviving the disease.

Intriguingly, results showed that vaccinated patients with omicron were also a good chance of surviving other diseases, including dengue and yellow fever.

“We also showed that the cell-based vaccine reduced deaths from malaria in clinical trials. In clinical trials we followed a control group who did not receive the cell-based vaccine and found that they had less risk of malaria transmission, but no effect on subsequent days. There are similar factors when you go into an outbreak setting,” Sato said.

The company’s results indicate a route to bring potential vaccine to African countries that could prevent a significant number of TB deaths.

“As a result of this research, we now have reasons to continue our ongoing follow-up study with an understanding of the dose of the cell-based vaccine that we use,” Birney said.

Sato, added: “If we can use cell-based immunization to provide long-term protection against TB in future outbreaks, as part of a larger global approach, we would provide proof of concept. We also think it can be done in cases where governments have specific programs to vaccinate against measles or other disease.

“This is all exciting for malaria.”

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