Russian President Vladimir Putin held a live scientific conference Friday to discuss the use of a new vaccine to protect the lungs and heart against the disease tuberculosis.
The vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Institute of Virology and Vaccinology, or IVV, was tested in August 2016 at an exhibition center for 10 delegates from Russia and other nations, according to The New York Times.
According to the conference announcement, the vaccine works to protect the lungs against 25 times the amount of bacteria used in currently available methods for treating TB.
“The technologies of this project have been developed for more than two decades, has been developed here in Russia and made its first testable in August 2016 when it was tested in public by an expert group,” Putin said, according to CBS News.
The IVV also stated that the technique used to protect the lungs from bacterial infections is similar to methods used for tuberculosis vaccines already approved in Europe and the United States.
There are 11 million active TB cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In Russia, the disease only kills one person out of every 50,000, but the WHO warns it is on the rise. There are also about two million undiagnosed cases in Russia, the Times noted.
Russia is a major exporter of TB drugs and vaccines, and Ivan Lebedev, an IVV professor, traveled to Germany in 2015 to unveil the first ever TB vaccine – the CTVA – developed in Russia, according to an IVV representative.
Putin said that more than 1,500 tests conducted by scientists from universities, colleges and institutes in Russian provinces have shown the vaccine is safe and a suitable alternative to antibiotics for treating TB.
“The vaccine will be administered in the clinic immediately after the curing of the patient of tuberculosis,” said Putin.
An improved TB vaccine is a priority of the WHO, which is rolling out vaccines against the virus to children in China and high-risk children in Africa, among other efforts. Experts say that advances in scientific technology have made it possible to offer TB prevention and treatment for patients, yet the disease continues to be one of the leading causes of death globally.
“Tuberculosis today is not as big a killer as it was a couple of decades ago. But it is still one of the world’s most severe public health problems,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
At Friday’s conference, the president announced the formation of a Russian Medicines Agency to replace a Health Ministry health ministry that the Times said is struggling to increase drug prices in response to a declining drug budget in recent years.
“Drug prices are low,” Putin said, according to The Times. “But if we do not increase the level of compliance with standards, they will become not very profitable.”
“We must strengthen drug control,” he added.
The AP contributed to this report.