Washington, Oct 8 : Groundbreaking research by Welsh scientists is being used to develop a more effective vaccine against TB.
A team of researchers at Aberystwyth University has discovered a protein, which is capable of waking up dormant Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria that causes TB in humans.
This discovery has now been licensed to a not-for-profit organisation, which will develop a new vaccine that offers better protection.
The vaccine could begin clinical trials next year.
The team of researchers at Aberystwyth first discovered a family of proteins that were able to resuscitate bacteria found harmlessly in and around the human body in the late 1990s.
When these bacteria were awoken they were more susceptible to attack from antibiotics.
The research team, which was led by Professors Mike Young and Doug Kell, at Aberystwyth University, together with Moscow-based Prof Arseny Kaprelyants and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), went on to discover the corresponding genes associated with TB.
"Current TB treatments can go on for over six months and can still leave bacteria in the body that can cause the disease when they resume active growth and multiplication," Prof Young, now based in Aberystwyth University's newly formed Institute of Biological, Rural and Environmental Studies, said.
"Our discovery, which is now being developed into a vaccine, might help prevent the establishment of persistent infections in the first place or, alternatively, it might prevent persisting organisms in individuals with latent TB from reawakening at all.
"TB kills around 1.7 million people around the world every year. I hope that our research will now be rapidly translated into a vaccine that can help as many of these people as possible," he added.
Dr Alf Game, BBSRC Deputy Director of Research, said: "This discovery came out of research in the basic biology of a different bacterium. It shows that we need to strive to understand the fundamental workings of the world around us and from that we can identify how to tackle challenges, such as dangerous diseases, that we all face."