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Vaccines are one of the biggest achievements of medical science. The Vaccine knowledge project claims that before the introduction of the Polio Vaccine in the 1950’s there were up 7760 cases of paralytic Polio each year in the UK. The last case of naturally occurring Polio in the UK was 1984. More recently the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine has been shown to be 99% effective in protecting from the strain of HPV that causes cervical cancer (The Vaccine Knowledge Project.) While there is amazing work being conducted with vaccines there is still so much work to do.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection spread through the coughs, sneezes and droplets from an infected person. It mainly affects the lungs but can affect any part of the body including the abdomen, glands and nervous system (NHS) It typically presents as a persistent cough which at times can be bloody. Other symptoms include night sweats, fatigue and weight loss. (NHS)

TB can be split into 2 categories. Latent TB is where a person has the bacteria in their body, but it is dormant and if they are not symptomatic, they are not contagious. The second type is Active TB, this is when the disease is awake, infectious and causing a person to be unwell. write “When TB wakes up and gets into the lungs, it eats them from the inside out, slowly diminishing their capacity, causing the chest to fill up with blood… The lungs now in liquid form are sloshing around in the chest” Unfortunately, if not diagnosed and treated TB will be fatal. It is not all doom and gloom, the NHS states that if diagnosed and treated early TB is both treatable and curable.

We are fortunate in the UK our TB rate is exceptionally low and as a result we offer the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine mainly to babies born to parents or grandparents who come from high-risk countries.

Not everywhere is so fortunate, The World health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one quarter of the world’s population is infected with TB and in 2020 1.5 million people died from TB. The BCG vaccine is currently the only vaccine available for TB. It has a higher success rate when given to young people and babies, there isn’t much data to show it is effective in people over the age of 16. (NHS)

By 2035 the WHO plan to end TB by having less than 10 cases per 100,000 people. This is a big task considering there are countries such as Indonesia with 312 cases per 100,000 people in the population ( Worldwide in 2020 TB rates rose for the first time in over a decade which has now made ending TB more difficult. It is thought to be due to the global pandemic and services and financial support not being so readily available (WHO)

Although TB sounds scary the future is looking bright! The WHO have new vaccines currently in the ‘pipeline’ which if successful will help combat this awful disease which causes so much suffering to some of the world’s most vulnerable people (WHO).

Written by Jodie Convey RSCN, Clinical Development Manager at ECG Training, 16th November 2021.