Dar es Salaam. A new vaccine against typhoid has been proven to be safe, effective and could protect adults and children against the disease, scientists said on Friday September 29.
Typhoid is a bacterial disease that is responsible for around 20 million new infections and 200,000 deaths each year, mainly in South and South-East Asia and Africa.
According to a new study published in The Lancet Journal, the Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV) would have a significant impact on the incidence of typhoid if rolled out in countries where the disease is prevalent.
In Tanzania, the annual death rate of Typhoid is 3.5 per 100,000 people, according to data from Global Health Statistics.
Read in The Citizen: Your questions answered about typhoid
Scientists in East Africa have previously highlighted that typhoid contributes to economic losses due to the burden of healthcare costs-related to the disease.
Each episode of typhoid was found to cost an average of $154.47(equivalent to over Sh300,000), says a 2014 study titled,“Cost of Illness Due to Typhoid Fever in Pemba, Zanzibar, East Africa,” published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition.
The new vaccine, dubbed Typbar-TCVR has now been submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO) so that it is assessed on whether it meets global standards of quality, safety and efficacy. It was submitted by an Indian pharmaceutical company, Bharat Biotech International.
If it goes through this stage, it means that the vaccine will now be procured by Unicef for use in low-resource settings, such as Tanzania.
Typhoid is associated with inadequate sanitation and contaminated drinking water, and common symptoms include fever, stomach pain, headache and constipation or diarrhea.
Children are especially susceptible, but the currently licensed vaccines do not confer lasting immunity in children, and/or come in inappropriate formats, experts say.
According to the professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, Andrew Pollard, the new vaccine could be a game-changer in tackling the disease among poor people.
“For the first time, we will be able to offer protection to children under two years of age, which will enable us to stem the tide of the disease in the countries where it claims the most lives,” he said.
“If we are going to make serious headway in tackling typhoid, we need to dramatically reduce the number of people suffering from and carrying the disease globally, which will in turn lead to fewer people being at risk of encountering the infection,” he suggested.
“This is a disease that only affects humans, and I believe that it will be possible for us to eradicate one day. However, we’re currently losing ground as overuse of antibiotics is leading to the emergence of new resistant strains, which are spreading rapidly,’’ he added.
The researchers tested the vaccine at Oxford University using a controlled human infection model, which involved asking around 100 participants, many of whom were university students, to consume a drink containing the bacteria.
Dr Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines at Wellcome Trust said the models used in the study could give an indication that a vaccine is safe and effective far more quickly than would be possible through large-scale population trials.
For Dr Anita Zaidi, the director of the Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, typhoid is a stain in global health progress and must be combated now.
She said, “Many people think typhoid is a disease of the past, yet it still sickens millions of people annually, particularly children. This is a stain on global health progress when advances have been made against many other diseases.
“This vaccine would be a critical tool, alongside water and sanitation efforts, to help make real headway against this deadly disease and consign it to the history books where it belongs.’
The Chairman & Managing Director of Bharat Biotech, Dr Krishna Ella said the results of this study endorse more than 10 years of research and development in an effort develop this vaccine and various clinical trials that have been carried out over the past 8 years.