THE first ever trials of an aerosol vaccination for tuberculosis in Oxford have shown promising results and volunteers are now being sought for further studies.
University of Oxford researchers working at the Churchill Hospital found superior immune responses in the lungs from the trial of a vaccine given via an aerosol which creates a mist that is inhaled through a nebuliser, a simple technology already in common use to treat asthma.
Researchers are seeking an improved vaccine because the existing immunisation for TB, BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin), is not effective enough in adults, particularly in the developing world.
The research is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, a partnership between Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Oxford.
Researchers are the only group in the world researching aerosol vaccination and now seeking about 30 more volunteers for further trials.
The news comes as scientists and researchers mark World Tuberculosis Day on Tuesday March 24.
The first trial for aerosol vaccination involved 24 people though the University’s Jenner Institute, based at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.
They had previously vaccinated more than 2,500 people with MVA85A, using needles, in Oxford, Birmingham, South Africa, Senegal, Uganda and The Gambia.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person and mainly affects the lungs.
It is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated and symptoms include a persistent cough, weight loss, high temperature, tiredness and fatigue and loss of appetite.
Professor of Vaccinology and Consultant physician Helen McShane said: “BCG works well against disease from TB in childhood, but it is not good enough at protecting against disease in adulthood, particularly in the developing world. Scientists are therefore trying to develop an improved vaccine to protect against TB, and this is a global public health priority.”
She said: “This was a very successful study as it showed that the aerosol delivery was safe and also generated stronger immune responses in the lungs than the conventional delivery of the vaccine using a needle.
“As well as stimulating superior immune responses in the lungs, the aerosol delivery method also had comparable immune responses in the blood to those achieved with the needle delivery method, showing that blood responses were not compromised by making better responses in the lungs.”
Among those who are taking part in the latest trial is Oxford’s Michael Smith, 27, a film aesthetics student at St Anne’s College, Oxford.
He said: “I thought it would be fascinating to do because I am interested in how research is done.
“I know it is very important that these trials advance research into vaccinations, especially with TB, which is such a problem in some parts of the world.
“It is quite a small time commitment but the benefits are quite considerable in the long term.”