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WHO gives greenlight to a new inexpensive Typhoid vaccine

by Felix Omondi

Managing typhoid has become a bit cheaper now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved a new inexpensive vaccine Typbar TCV. The approval was given last month, December 2017, but only announced publicly Wednesday last week.

Typhoid fever is caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria, which flourishes in sewage and contaminated food. The disease is reported to infect 20 million people globally every year and claim at least 160,000 lives. The highest number of casualties being young children.

Once upon a time, the disease killed so many people in America, and it was given the unique name Typhoid Mary. While reported cases of infection from typhoid is almost non-existent in America these days, there are reported outbreaks of the diseases now and then in Africa and Asia.

The disease remains prevalent in developing nations because lack of proper handling of sewage systems and the fact most people can’t afford prompt treatment when infected. The move by WHO to approve the use of a new inexpensive vaccine will go a long way in alleviating suffering from this disease in developing nations.

Though there is still the challenge of addressing factors making the disease lethal. Factors such as rapid growth of slums with poor to non-existing sewage systems, hot weather spreading to formerly predominantly cold regions, and the development of resistance to antibiotics.

The Typbar TCV is made by the Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad, India and is available for purchase by donors including UN agencies and then distributed in developing countries. Already, GAVI the Vaccine Alliance has already set aside $85 million for children dosage, which will start being used next year.

Currently, the vaccine costs $1.50 per dose in developing countries, but the price is set to drop to just $1 or even less if enough donors order over 100 million doses. That is according to Krishna M. Ella, the chairman of Bharat. The vaccine has already been in use in India since 2005.

The Typbar TCV gained international recognition following an unusual challenge trial,” which began in 2015. Some 100 healthy volunteers from Oxford, England; the majority being students – received a placebo or the vaccine and the swallowed live Salmonella typhi.

The result was then published last year in Lancet, where the vaccine proved to be 87% effective in preventing patients from catching the typhoid fever. The ones who fell ill were quickly cured once an antibiotic was administered.

Bharat makes other nine vaccines approved by WHO including diseases like polio, Zika, chikungunya, Ebola, and non-typhoid strains of Salmonella. Their research is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Welcome Trust, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative among others.

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