The past decade has seen substantial new investments in addressing the TB epidemic, and a number of new tools are in development. New drugs, diagnostic technologies, and eventually a vaccine could vastly improve the worldwide response to TB. But more research and development is needed to ensure that these tools are as effective as possible and are affordable and simple to use. A more effective vaccine would be the single most powerful tool to reduce the incidence of TB. Even a partially effective new vaccine could, by some projections, decrease TB incidence by 39% to 52% by 2050.
However, the first candidate vaccine developed and tested in Phase IIb trials failed to protect infants against the disease, and discovering and developing a new, efficacious vaccine could take many years. It is therefore critical to also develop short- and medium-term strategies that can help reduce the rate of TB infection. For example, new TB diagnostic tools can reduce treatment delays and make it more likely that the disease will be caught before the patient transmits TB to many others. In addition, a simpler, shorter-course drug regimen would improve treatment success rates because patients would be more likely to complete it.
The drugs and diagnostic technologies that are currently in clinical development can reach those who need them most only if they are affordable and can be deployed efficiently. Substantial financial resources for research and development are needed, and investments from developed and TB-endemic countries, pharmaceutical companies, and foundations must be sustained.