Letter to the Editor

TB awareness, vaccine research

Thank you for writing about the difficulties of controlling tuberculosis and the need for concern regarding TB in the U.S. ("Tuberculosis not just a Third World disease," March 30).

Unfortunately like most infectious diseases, TB knows no borders, and truly TB anywhere. Worldwide, there are 1.8 million deaths from TB and an estimated 9.3 million new cases of TB a year. These overwhelming numbers are in spite of the vaccine against tuberculosis mentioned in the article, called BCG, which is about 90 years old. Despite widespread use in most of the world, BCG vaccination has not been effective in protecting against pulmonary TB in adults, the most common form of the disease and the cause of TB spreading from person to person.

Today scientists around the world are searching for new and better TB vaccines. In fact, our organization is working with researchers at St. Louis University who are playing an important role in the clinical testing of several promising TB vaccine candidates. We hope to see new, effective vaccines available in the next decade to help control the global TB epidemic. However, to truly eliminate TB as a public health threat, greater awareness and political will is needed at all national and international levels to lead a comprehensive fight against TB with better control efforts and a greater investment in new tools for the future.

Dr. LEWELLYS F. BARKER, Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, Rockville, Md.