“Tuberculosis not completely eradicated in Belgium”

Tuesday 24 March is World Tuberculosis Day. According to figures from the Belgian Scientific Institute for Public Health (WIV) tuberculosis had not been completely eradicated here. In 2013 there were 8.8 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 population in Belgium.

Furthermore “TB is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics." Nevertheless, “the number of new cases in Belgium has remained stable”, WIV writes in a press statement.

Despite a slight drop in the number of new cases of TB, new cases of the disease are still being recorded in Western European countries including Belgium. Most of the new cases of TB were recorded in big cities such as Brussels, Antwerp and Liège.

The BCG vaccine is effective in protection children from TB. However, its effectiveness is limited when it comes to adults that have a dormant TB infection in their system.

The Head of the Immunology Department at WIV Kris Huygen told the press agency Belga that “Various factors such as aging, poor diet, excessive alcohol use and HIV can weaken the immune system. Influenced by one or more of these factors a dormant TB infection can, in time, become active. In such cases the BCG vaccine doesn’t work”.

Scientists from WIV are currently working with colleagues from other European countries on an EU-sponsored project to develop new vaccines. They hope to develop a way of slowing down the process that makes a dormant TB infection become active.