Tuberculosis vaccine investigated for use against coronavirus
The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG, has been used extensively for about 100 years, with a growing appreciation for its off-target benefits. Not only is it a common immunotherapy for early-stage bladder cancer, but it also appears to train the body’s first line of immune defense to better fight infection.
With an immunization specifically targeted against Covid-19 disease causing the pandemic for at least a year, the World Health Organization says it is important to know whether the BCG vaccine can reduce the disease in people infected with the coronavirus, and it’s encouraging international groups to collaborate on a study led by Nigel Curtis, chief of infectious disease research, at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.
“It can stimulate the immune system to better defend against a wide range of different infections, a wide variety of viruses and bacteria in a much more generalized way,” said Curtis, who is also a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University. from Melbourne and head of the infectious diseases unit at the city’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
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Hospital staff who volunteered to be part of a six-month trial in Australia involving 4,000 healthcare workers will be randomized to be vaccinated starting Monday against seasonal flu and tuberculosis, or just the vaccine. against the flu.
A placebo vaccine will not work as a control in this case because the BCG vaccine generally causes a localized skin reaction that leaves a scar, making it obvious which group received the tuberculosis vaccine.
Similar research is underway in the Netherlands. Curtis, in an interview Saturday, said he is in talks with potential test sites in other Australian cities, as well as Boston.
Although the affordable vaccine, which is used to immunize some 130 million newborns worldwide each year, may offer protection to a broader group of people, the priority is for health workers who are at increased risk for become infected with the coronavirus while caring for sick patients. .
“We have to think of all the possible ways that we can protect health workers,” Curtis said. “And there will be a particular need to reduce the amount of time that our health workers are absent.”
Baby studies in Africa have shown that the BCG vaccine offers protection against tuberculosis and other pediatric infections, likely by enhancing the body’s innate immune system, specifically white blood cells that attack non-specific pathogens before an antibody response. it is normally activated days later. .
Blood samples taken at the beginning and end of the test will determine who was infected with the coronavirus, while participants will record any symptoms during the test period. The study’s data monitoring committee will review the results after three months to look for signs that the approach is working.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think this could work,” Curtis said. “We cannot guarantee that this will work. And of course the only way to find out is with our judgment. ”
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