The rationale for an effective tuberculosis vaccine is pretty compelling – TB treatment costs billions of dollars for the almost 10 million people infected each year.

The cost of treatment and lost productivity for one patient with TB is $17,000. For one case of MDR-TB: $260,000. One case of XDR-TB (“Ebola with wings”): $554,000.

“This is taking an incredible toll on the financial status of countries that have to deal with it, and that’s every country,” said Matthew Feldman, manager of strategic communications for Aeras, a non-profit biotech company that is working toward a vaccine.

Feldman said a TB vaccine has the potential to mostly wipe out tuberculosis, much like polio and smallpox vaccines did for those diseases in the 1960s.

There are 13 vaccines in clinical trials right now; only one is in phase 3. One estimate puts a vaccine 10-20 years away.

Aeras produced an award-winning series of short documentary videos on TB, titled “Exposed” as well as videos on health care workers who are exposed daily, titled “Unmasked.”

--By Sandy K. Johnson