Researchers have obtained additional evidence to suggest that TB vaccine might be helpful at treating COVID-19. The researchers found more proof that the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) TB vaccine holds the potential for fighting coronavirus. They based their research on statistics that revealed that many countries where BCG is administered have lower mortality rates from COVID-19.
While the research underscores the fact that BCG does not mitigate the risks of severe illness from COVID-19 infection, it does boost people’s immunity to fight off TB and other infectious diseases such as coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) however warned that health professionals must not administer the vaccine for the fight against coronavirus until abundant evidence emerges as to its efficacy.
The WHO caution has however not stopped researchers from digging into the possibility that the vaccine might help against the pandemic. Researchers from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute applied variables such as population density, healthcare access, and response to coronavirus to evaluate the rates of COVID-19 mortality in countries where the BCG vaccine is usually administered. They were able to find that there is a link between the use of the BCG vaccine and the reduction in coronavirus mortality rates.
Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
One of the study authors, Carolina Barillas-Mury of the National Institutes of Health, said the investigating team took extreme care to remove any variables that could undermine the conclusions of the research. She stated that the study proved that BCG offers some form of protection against COVID-19.
“What distinguishes our work is that we were very careful in removing variables,” Carolina Barillas-Mury said. “When we removed them, if this was not true, the association should have disappeared. Instead of disappearing, it became stronger and stronger – more straightforward.”
The TB vaccine has been in use for over 100 years in many countries around the world. It is usually administered to infants and children to prevent tuberculosis infection, but its effectiveness in adults has been mixed. It is however not used in the United States since the threat of TB infection is very low in the country, and the CDC cautioned that its use can interfere with TB screening.
The researchers request for more studies and clinical trials to prove the result of BCG vaccine on coronavirus. Even then, other investigators say vaccines for polio and measles as well as mumps and rubella may be effective against coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
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.
“BCG boosts the innate immune system,” said Faustman. “So whenever you see any infectious disease, you can fight it off faster. The signal is really pretty strong that countries with prior BCG vaccination have protection from incidence and mortality.”