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A century after the Bacillus-Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine was first administered to fight the scourge of tuberculosis (TB) across the globe, the spotlight is back on the world’s deadliest infectious bacteria, as well as the humble vaccine and its long-overdue effective successor.

In 2021, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blew the bugle blew the bugle Livemint Aim to eliminate tuberculosis from the country by 2025: PM Modi Read more on eliminating TB from the country by 2025. Citing the PM’s exhortation, the Serum Institute of India (SII)—the world’s largest vaccine maker—in March 2022 March 2022 The Economic Times Serum Institute seeks emergency use authorisation for its rBCG tuberculosis vaccine Read more applied for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for its recombinant-BCG (rBCG) (rBCG) Recombinant-BCG (rBCG) vaccine rBCG is a genetically modified BCG vaccine derived from the Mycobacterium bovis vaccine that has been under clinical trials clinical trials Study to Check the Efficacy and Safety of Recombinant BCG Vaccine in Prevention of TB Recurrence Read more for over five years.

Currently, there is no publicly available data or evidence to support the efficacy of the rBCG vaccine in reducing new infections, protecting against TB, or decreasing transmission of the disease in adults.

It is estimated that 25% of the world’s population is infected with TB, with a 5-10% lifetime risk of developing the disease, and vaccines effectively reduce transmission.

In December 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) came out with a report report World Health Organization WHO-commissioned study makes strong health and economic argument for investing in new TB vaccines Read more outlining the economic benefits of new TB vaccines. It projected that a vaccine for adolescents and adults could result in absolute gains of $1.6 trillion in the gross domestic product, while a vaccine for infants could add $0.2 trillion. India, too, has upped the ante upped the ante The Ken How India’s HIV programme became a sideshow to its tuberculosis-control efforts Read more in its fight against the disease in recent years.

Late in 2022, biotech firm MyLab Discovery Solutions announced it had received ‘market authorisation’ from the regulator regulator Indian medical regulator While ICMR is the medical technology valdating agency, it's the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, or the drugs regulator, who gives the manufacturing approval for a new set of TB diagnostic tests.


Seema Singh

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.

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