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August 20, 1998
Contact: CDC, National Center
for HIV, STD and TB Prevention
Office of Communication
(404) 6398895

Update: Advisory Council for the Elimination of Tuberculosis Releases Recommendations for the Development of New Vaccines for Tuberculosis

Statement from Helene Gayle, M.D, M.P.H.
Director, National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In recommendations released today, the federal Advisory Council for the Elimination of Tuberculosis (ACET) issued a national call for the development of a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB). TB, a potentially fatal airborne disease, now kills more adults worldwide each year than any other infectious disease. CDC strongly supports these recommendations and believes it is time for the U.S. to take the next step toward eliminating tuberculosis as a public health threat. A renewed national commitment to TB control in the early 1990's has helped bring the rates of TB in this country to an all time low of 7 per 100,000. Yet, the rate remains 75 times greater than the level necessary to eliminate this disease as a significant public health threat.

The existing strategies to combat TB, primarily directly observed therapy (DOT) for active disease and preventive treatment for TB infection, have allowed us to make tremendous progress in bringing the TB epidemic under control. But, while these tools can keep us from losing ground, alone they will not allow us to win the battle against TB. Without an effective tuberculosis vaccine, Americans may always have to fear the threat of TB.

In the U.S, even though we have reduced the annual number of active cases of TB, an estimated 15 million Americans are already infected with the bacteria that causes TB, and 2 billion people are estimated to be infected worldwide. ACET is recommending that new efforts include a focus on a "post-infection vaccine," rather than exclusively focusing on the traditional approach to vaccine development. To eliminate TB, it is critical to develop a vaccine that not only prevents new infection, but that will effectively prevent the millions of people infected with TB from developing active TB disease.

We have entered a new era in TB elimination. Recent scientific advances have provided an unprecedented opportunity to move forward with vaccine development. A post-infection vaccine could be the most important new tool to eliminate TB in the United States. CDC is committed to continuing its work with partners in the public and private sector to achieve this goal and to maintain the strategies that are currently keeping this disease in check . TB is not yet a disease of the past, but we believe it can be.


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