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Century-Old TB Vaccine Could Be Effective Against Covid-19 And Other Infections: New Study

In April 2020, when coronavirus was in full swing and researchers and scientists around the world were looking for ways to prevent and treat the Covid-19 infection, some scientists were testing a century-old tuberculosis vaccine for its effectiveness against the virus and in favour of the immune system. [1]

Data from a preliminary study during that time showed that the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, developed hundreds of years ago to prevent TB, is related to low mortality rates from coronavirus. Countries having a universal TB vaccination policy have a lower incidence of Covid-19 and deaths from the same.

The research was at a trial stage during the time, which is why it was difficult for the experts to confirm anything about the relationship between BCG vaccines and covid-19.

However, the results of earlier-held trials have arrived now, and it is quite encouraging to know that the BCG vaccine can help lower the risk of covid-19 in around 96 per cent of people and also train their immune systems against a range of infectious diseases. The study is published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.

About The Study

The study was conducted on adults with type 1 diabetes, individuals who are at a greater risk of the infection due to a weakened immune system. 144 patients were enrolled, out of whom 96 were given the BCG vaccine, while the remaining 48 were given a placebo.

After a 15-month trial, it was found that only one per cent of BCG-injected patients had got covid-19, while around 12.5 per cent of patients on placebo had been affected by covid-19. The efficacy of around 92 per cent was evaluated for the BCG vaccine against covid-19.

Also, patients who were given the BCG vaccine have fewer cases of other infectious diseases and less severity.

Despite the trial's modest size, lead author Dr Denise Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital noted that the outcomes were "as striking as for the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines."

Why Diabetics For Testing?

People with preexisting chronic diseases like type 1 diabetes are vulnerable to infections like covid-19. They are also at an increased risk of developing diabetes complications due to a weakened immune system.

This could be the reason why diabetics were selected for clinical trials to check for the potential of the vaccine in people who are at greater risk and require more attention.

According to Dr Faustman, there was a significant decrease in bladder infections, flu, colds, respiratory tract infections and sinus infections, which diabetics experience frequently.

Also, the immune system's response is increasing against the infection rather than being sluggish.

Results From Other Similar Studies

Another study on 301 older adults aged 50 years and older found that the BCG vaccine can help reduce covid-19 infections by two-thirds and other respiratory infection rates as well. All of the participants had health issues, including heart or lung illness. [2]

A Dutch study and a South African study conducted on around 1500 and 1000 healthcare employees show that the BCG vaccine is not effective enough to reduce covid-19 severity and mortality rates. [3]

To Conclude

Though BCG vaccines have been proven to have protective effects against covid-19, the results are controversial. The study needs more evidence on the BCG vaccine, evolving covid-19 strains, and the effect of the vaccine on immunity.

Story first published: Thursday, August 18, 2022, 17:11 [IST]
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