A commonly used tuberculosis vaccine may help prevent coronavirus infections or reduce the severity of the virus, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
According to a new study by Cedars-Sinai, the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine, also known as BCG vaccine, could play a role in reducing the chances of contracting the virus.
The BCG vaccine was developed in the early 1900s. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and given to 100 million children annually across the world.
According to the outlet, the vaccine is FDA-approved to treat bladder cancer and also given to people at high risk of catching TB. It is currently being tested in several clinical trials for its effectiveness against COVID-19.
A new study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation studied the blood of more than 6,000 healthcare workers in the Cedars-Sinai Health System for evidence of antibodies to the coronavirus.
Researchers noted that workers who received BCG vaccinations in the past — nearly 30% of those studied — were significantly less likely to test positive for antibodies in their blood or to report having had coronavirus when compared to people who did not have the vaccine.
Dr. Moshe Arditi, director of the Pediatric and Infectious Diseases and Immunology Division at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author of the study, said it isn’t clear why people vaccinated had lower antibody levels.
“It appears that BCG-vaccinated individuals either may have been less sick and therefore produced fewer anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, or they may have mounted a more efficient cellular immune response against the virus,” said Arditi, professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Sciences. “We were interested in studying the BCG vaccine because it has long been known to have a general protective effect against a range of bacterial and viral diseases other than TB, including neonatal sepsis and respiratory infections.”
The lower antibody levels in those vaccinated with BCG were present in individuals who were higher risk for the coronavirus because they also have hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or COPD.
Dr. Susan Cheng, associate professor of Cardiology and director of Public Health Research at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai and a senior study co-author, said “large, randomized clinical trials are urgently needed to confirm whether BCG vaccination can induce a protective effect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
While researchers agree the BCG vaccine won’t be as effective as a coronavirus vaccine, Arditi said it could be made available quickly and serve as a bridge until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
“It would it be wonderful if one of the oldest vaccines that we have could help defeat the world’s newest pandemic,” Arditi said.
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