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Can TB Vaccine Fight Against Coronavirus? What Do Studies Say?

Currently, there is no vaccine against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that has infected 1,119,109 people and caused 58,955 deaths worldwide. However, scientists in many countries are testing a century-old tuberculosis (TB) vaccine to see if it strengthens the immune system and lower the respiratory symptoms in people who are infected with coronavirus.

The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine that was developed a hundred years ago to treat tuberculosis is now being tested against coronavirus by scientists who are keen to find a quick way to protect health care workers, among others.

Can BCG Vaccine Fight Against Coronavirus?

The BCG vaccine is still widely used in the developing world and scientists believe that it could do more than preventing TB. A preliminary study was done which showed a correlation between countries that have a universal BCG vaccination policy with a fewer number of confirmed cases and deaths from coronavirus [1].

The study mentions that middle-high and high-income countries that have a universal BCG policy have a reduced mortality rate of COVID-19.

The researchers analysed that BCG vaccination may significantly reduce mortality rates and could decrease the number of carriers, and when combined with other measures could stop the spread of coronavirus. It further says that BCG vaccine might have long-lasting protection against the current strain of coronavirus.

Experts say that the vaccine seems to instruct the immune system to recognise and respond to different kinds of infections, including bacteria, viruses and parasites.

What Is A BCG Vaccine?

The BCG vaccine was invented by Dr. Albert Calmette and Dr. Camille Guerin in the early 1900s from mycobacterium bovis, a form of tuberculosis that infects cattles. The BCG vaccine is used to prevent childhood tuberculous meningitis and miliary disease, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to a study, death rates among low-birth-weight babies were significantly reduced after they were given BCG vaccine [2].

As per another study report, children who received a BCG vaccine had a lower risk of respiratory infections [3].

How Can A BCG Vaccine Protect You From Other Infections?

The BCG vaccine contains a live but weakened strain of tuberculosis bacteria that stimulates the body to form antibodies to attack TB bacteria. The vaccine boosts the immune system, which acts as a defensive shield against a variety of pathogens from entering the body.

Who Should Get A BCG Vaccine?

Further clinical trials are needed to test the BCG vaccine against coronavirus. People should not get the vaccination as it hasn't been tested in adults and might pose a health risk. Also, it might lead to shortages for children who need the BCG vaccines to prevent TB.

Story first published: Saturday, April 4, 2020, 20:30 [IST]
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