The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) says it will fund clinical trials for tuberculosis vaccine in Africa to reduce morbidity and mortality resulting from tuberculosis.
The Chief Executive Officer of the foundation, Mr Mark Suzman, made the disclosure during a virtual interview with selected African journalists, on Thursday.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that often affects the lungs. It is caused by a type of bacteria.
The disease spreads through the air when infected persons cough, sneeze or spit.
Suzman said that tuberculosis killed more people than any other disease, adding that it took over from COVID-19 in last year’s report, with 1.6 million deaths.
According to him, there has not been a new tuberculosis vaccine in over 100 years.
“An example of something that we are starting to fund this year, which the trials will be on the African continent, is the first trials, phase three trials, which are the last trials before something is proven.
“We hope to be successful for a tuberculosis vaccine.
“That’s the kind of initiative that philanthropy can take.
“We will take the risk, and we are being supported by the Wellcome Trust and other philanthropy, to do those trials,” he said.
He said that the foundation was working on new treatment for tuberculosis and malaria.
“But in the end, when those are developed, it has to be governments that will take the lead, working with international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria to ensure that the products reach the people who need them,” he said.
Suzman said that philanthropy could take risks and help to fill gaps that could be overlooked or underfunded, to save lives and improve well-being.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the foundation has spent more than one billion dollars in the past two decades in funding malaria prevention research.
Information from WHO shows that Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine has existed for 80 years and is one of the most-widely used of all TB vaccines in countries where it is part of the national childhood immunisation programme.
However, BCG does not always prevent people from getting TB.
According to WHO, in 2022, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis worldwide, including 5.8 million men, 3.5 million women and 1.3 million children.
TB is present in all countries and suffered by all age groups.
It is curable and preventable, but remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, according to WHO.