The world may have another tool with which to fight the effects of the Covid-19 virus.
A new study published in Cell Medicine Reports has found that the Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, developed to help fight tuberculosis in the early 1900s, may offer a measure of protection against Covid and a range of other infectious diseases and bacteria by strengthening the immune system.
The study in question began before the first Covid outbreak in the United States, back in January 2020. It was designed to see whether BCG vaccinations could help people with Type 1 diabetes resist infections – including, ultimately, Covid.
Two-thirds of the study’s 144 participants were given injections of the BCG vaccine prior to the Covid outbreak, with the other third of patients were receiving a placebo. The results were striking: among the participants who recieved the vaccinations, just one developed Covid. Six members of the group that recieved the placebo came down with the virus.
While the study only looked at a very small group of people, all with Type 1 diabetes, the results may be cause for scientists to further study what kind of help the general population might be glean from the longstanding tuberculosis vaccine.
The BCG shots, which are still given to infants in countries where tuberculosis is a threat, didn’t just help recipients avoid Covid. According to the study’s lead author, Dr Denise Faustman, they also helped reduce bladder infections, respiratory tract infections, sinus infections, and incidences of cold and flu.
“[The vaccine] seems to be resetting the immune response of the host to be more alert, to be more primed, not as sluggish,” Ms Faustman toldThe New YorkTimes.
Another study in Greece with a group of subjects with problems like heart and lung disease found that the BCG vaccine significantly lowered the rate of Covid and other respiratory infections as well, though still other studies in the Netherlands and South Africa found that BCG vaccines did not significantly alter Covid outcomes.
Still, some researchers believe that a broad immuno-boosting vaccine like BCG could be a critically important tool as the Covid virus continues to circulate at a rapid rate and outbreaks of other viruses like Monkeypox and Polio in the US and the threat of future pandemics have left people worried about their health and safety.
The BCG vaccine is built fairly differently from the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines, which have been similarly effective against the virus. Instead of mRNA, the BCG vaccine contains a live attenuated bacterium that has been cultivated in different strains in different labs around the world for years. Some strains of the vaccine are more potent than others, and people may need several doses to best boost their immune system.