Alarming TB cases in Austria

By Christian Pruszinsky

A third of the worlds population is infected with the bacterium Myobacterium tuberculosis which infects around nine million people annually.

Although there is European awareness that this disease — although long thought defeated — is on the rise again, the extent of the danger is obviously underestimated, and risk is still thought to be restricted to underdeveloped countries.
However, according to WHO data, eight people in Europe die from TB every hour and another 50 are being infected. Every hour! The old EU member states report an average of 13 cases of TB per 100,000 people; the ten new member states report twice as many. The figure for Romania and Bulgaria stands at around 53 cases per 100,000 people and in the former Soviet Republic this figure rises to just under 100 cases per 100,000.
There is increasingly alarming news from highly developed countries: as recently as February this year children in a Viennese nursery were infected by one of their carers and at the beginning of March the wife of a bakery-owner in the Austrian town of Arnoldstein close to the Italian border was diagnosed with open TB. Local hospitals and health trusts were stretched to prevent a further spread of the disease. Nevertheless, the number of TB cases in Austria has remained constant with just under 1,000 cases annually. Further containment is doubtlessly being made difficult by the country’s proximity to Eastern Europe and its comprehensive movements of people and goods.
Successful vaccine development in preclinical tests
However, Austria has produces more positive news: Biotech firm Intercell, specialist in prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines development, has announced that a TB vaccine, which consists of antigens from the Statens Serum Institute (SSI) and Adjuvans IC31 by Intercell is currently being tested in clinical studies. Additinally, this is undergoing further development in cooperation with the SSI and Sanofi Pasteur. SSI and Intercell will continue their TB vaccine R&D cooperation with Intercell’s own Adjuvans IC31.
The participation by Sanofi Pasteur means that the activities are being escalated to advanced stages, aiming to make a TB vaccine available as soon as possible


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