Coronavirus: Tuberculosis vaccine may limit Covid-19 deaths, researchers say

Henrietta Strickland
July 13, 2020

"In our initial research, we found that countries with high rates of BCG vaccinations had lower rates of mortality", explained Escobar, a faculty member in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and an affiliate of the Global Change Center housed in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

While this does not mean that BCG somehow reduces the risk of a severe illness from a coronavirus infection, it does fit with other research that suggests that BCG may boost people's immunity in general, and perhaps help against coronavirus.

The new study has challenged the World Health Organisation's claim on the TB vaccine which had earlier said that "there is no evidence" that it is effective against the awful coronavirus infection. To make a fair comparison, they took into account factors such as population density, access to health care, and the response to Covid-19.

Dr. William Schaffner, an contagious disease professional at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who formerly described making use of the BCG vaccine towards coronavirus as "a Hail Mary pass", cautioned against putting an excessive amount of stock inside observational information collected throughout countries, given that not all nations assess Covid-19 cases plus deaths similar to the way. However, they all had in common a tuberculosis vaccination program.

"Production would have to increase to meet the sudden spike in vaccine demand in order to prevent a delay in distribution to countries that very much need it to fight tuberculosis", Carolina Barillas-Mury, an author of the study and disease researcher at the U.S. National Institute of Health told Medical Xpress.

"What we've seen are previews of coming attractions, as they say in the movie theater", stated Schaffner. "Instead of disappearing, it became stronger and stronger - more straightforward", she added. But there is a strong evidence suggesting that the vaccine provides nonspecific or broad spectrum immunity beyond tuberculosis.

Escobar stresses that the team's findings are preliminary, and that further research is needed to support their results and determine what the next steps should be for researchers. It is not enough to demonstrate with certainty that the BCG vaccine somehow protected people against the coronavirus.

For more than 100 years, the BCG vaccine has been used in many countries, including the United States, and has been associated with a reduced overall mortality in infants and children.

Researchers have obtained additional evidence to suggest that TB vaccine might be helpful at treating COVID-19.

The BCG vaccine, which was first used medically in 1921, was developed from Mycobacterium Bovis, which is commonly found in cows and it does not have serious side effects.

The study found that COVID-19 mortality rate in West Germany was 2.9 times higher among people in eastern Germany. Initial clinical trials overseas are now centered on health care workers on leading lines of the coronavirus fight.

A $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation inside May bolstered clinical trials inside Australia, Spain and The Netherlands, that may extend to be able to 10,000 health care employees.

Dr. Denise Faustman, director of immunobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, confirmed that TB vaccine holds hope for fighting COVID-19 and that she will soon commence clinical trials in Boston.

Faustman has studied the off-target effects of the BCG vaccine for years. "BCG stimulates the innate immune system", said Faustman, "so every time you see an infectious disease, you can fight it faster".

In a report by CNN, several research studies have recently emerged backing up the claims that the TB BCG vaccine could help fight coronavirus infection.

There are now clinical trials underway to establish whether BCG vaccination in adults confers protection from severe COVID-19.

Most Asian countries have universal BCG vaccination programs, and the United States does not. According for the CDC, BCG is generally not advised in the United States, since infection chance is minimal, the particular effectiveness of the of the vaccine can vary it will potentially hinder TB verification.

The vaccine could possibly be administered in countries that do not now have a universal vaccination program.

"The good thing is that it is given only once".

For now, scientists are still looking at other possible COVID-19 vaccines and are re-using existing vaccines for polio, rubella, and mumps, which they believe could offer protection against severe infections like coronavirus.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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