100 years on and the BCG (Bacille de Calmette et Guérin) vaccine is still one of the most widely used vaccines worldwide, designed to fight against one of the most dangerous human infectious diseases, human tuberculosis (TB). This November 2021, the “Lettre de l’Institut Pasteur” a quarterly information bulletin of the Institut Pasteur in French language is dedicated to ‘Tuberculosis: the forgotten epidemic”. Among other contributions, it includes an update on the history of the BCG vaccination, as well as an interview with Roland Brosch, head of the Integrated Mycobacterial Pathogenomics Unit, in the Department of Microbiology of the Institut Pasteur.
As pointed out by Roland Brosch, tuberculosis is often a disease associated with poor social and medical living conditions. The situation might even become worse due to the COVID19 pandemic, which results in diverting funds and resources from programs aimed at preventing, diagnosing and treating TB. It is to be feared that despite some recent progress during the last 20 years to lower the number of global TB cases, the number of TB-caused fatalities will rise again substantially in the coming months and years.
In addition, over the last decades, a constant rise of drug resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB can be observed. Today, over 200 000 TB cases per year are caused by multi-drug resistant M. tuberculosisstrains. This situation poses important threats to health systems, and particular difficult conditions to host these patients and treat them appropriately. Hence, continuous efforts are needed to better understand how the virulence of M.tuberculosis evolves, and how new medicines and improved vaccines against TB can be found, research topics that are in the center of interest in Roland Brosch’lab at the Institut Pasteur.