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January 16, 2019

New vaccine to shield children from typhoid

A medic prepares a vaccine to immunise children./ FILE PIC
A medic prepares a vaccine to immunise children./ FILE PIC

A new typhoid vaccine has been proven to be effective in protecting adults and children.

Children are especially susceptible to the diarrhoeal disease, but currently the licensed vaccines do not offer lasting immunity.

The study, published in the latest edition of The Lancet health journal, shows that unlike the existing ones, the new vaccine, called Typbar-TCVR, works well on both children and adults and could offer longer immunity.

In Kenya, typhoid affects less than one per cent of the population annually.

But the Kenya Medical Research Institute says a new drug-resistant strain has been reported in Nairobi.

The TCVR trial was led by University of Oxford Paediatric Infection and Immunity specialist Prof Andrew Pollard and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“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 many lives,” Pollard said.

“This is a disease that only affects humans and I believe that it will be possible for us to eradicate it 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.”

Typhoid is usually treated with antibiotics, but drug resistance is increasing, leading to a growing need for an effective vaccine.

Prof Sam Kariuki, the head of microbiology at Kemri, recently said a drug-resistant strain of typhoid, called H58, has been found in Nairobi’s Mukuru kwa Njenga slum.

“With the increase of slums, which have poor sanitation, these cases are bound to go up,” he told journalists.

The new vaccine has been submitted by Bharat Biotech International Ltd to the World Health Organization for pre-qualification.

The researchers tested the vaccine at Oxford University using a controlled human infection model, which involved asking around 100 participants, many of them university students, to consume a drink containing the bacteria.

They were then tested to see whether the vaccine works.

Dr Anita Zaidi, director of the enteric and diarrheal diseases team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “Many people think typhoid is a disease of the past, yet it still sickens millions of people annually. This is a stain on global health progress when advances have been made against many other diseases.”

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