Viewpoint: Why healthcare needs to focus on TB, HIV vaccines

To curb deaths from dangerous infectious diseases, healthcare leaders must focus more on collaborating to develop a vaccine for HIV and tuberculosis, a physician writes in a STAT op-ed.

Four insights from the op-ed, written by Mark Feinberg, MD, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative:

1. Although researchers have made significant strides in giving lifesaving treatment to HIV patients and created multiple ways to prevent infection, the virus still is spreading at an alarming rate, Dr. Feinberg said. TB also continues to spread, with 10 million new cases of TB disease reported in 2017. The prevalence of these diseases and lack of effective vaccines signals a need for healthcare leaders to focus on creating new and better vaccines to protect patients.

2. "Although HIV and TB may prove to be more intractable pathogens than the Ebola virus, neither will be defeated without effective vaccines," Dr. Feinberg wrote. "Fortunately, there is scientific and political momentum building on both fronts."

Dr. Feinberg highlighted recent results from two TB vaccine trials that show it should be possible to protect against this centuries-old pathogen using vaccines. One study found an investigational vaccine candidate was 54 percent effective at preventing active pulmonary TB disease in adults. Another recent clinical trial suggests revaccinating adolescents with the only licensed TB vaccine, created almost a century ago, may present another way to protect against the disease.

3. Additionally, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which Dr. Feinberg leads, and its partners recently advanced a vaccine candidate into clinical trials that explores innovative techniques to protect against the virus.

4. Researchers working on HIV and TB vaccines must redouble their efforts to speed up the design and development of promising candidates, Dr. Feinberg said. "Success will only come from innovative science and creative partnerships between the public and private sectors, much like those that were formed during the 2014 to 2016 Ebola crisis," he wrote. "Defeating HIV and TB will ultimately depend on vaccines being affordable and accessible across the globe, particularly in the places where the burden of these diseases remains unacceptably high."

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:
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Amoxicillin prescription rates low for children's infections, study finds

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