Exploring the Ethics of Tuberculosis Human Challenge Models


TB human challenge studies could accelerate TB vaccine development by reducing uncertainty in early-stage vaccine testing, selecting promising vaccine candidates for large-scale field trials, and identifying an immune correlate of protection. However, ethical concerns regarding the exposure of trial participants and bystanders to significant risk have been a limiting factor for TB human challenge models. We analyze the expected social value and risks of different types of TB human challenge models, and conclude that given the massive public health burden of TB, challenge models with even scant probabilities of expediting TB vaccine authorization have enormous expected humanitarian value, saving between 33,000 and 1,375,000 lives over the next ten years. We argue that attenuated M.tb challenge trials can be conducted ethically, and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of conducting virulent M.tb challenge trials.

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