BCG vaccine lowers the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection
We have all had the pandemic affect us in some way. Every day, we hear news of a pharmaceutical company making progress in developing a vaccine for it. Researchers have made a surprising discovery in the midst of this global problem and race to find a solution.
BCG is the most widely used vaccine globally and is used to prevent tuberculosis’s deadly pulmonary disease. It has now been found to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Effects of the BCG vaccine
6000 healthcare workers of the Cedars-Sinai Health System had their blood tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Almost 30% of these workers had been vaccinated with the BCG vaccine in the past and had a significantly lesser number of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their blood. They were also reported to have had lesser occurrences of symptoms related to or of a coronavirus infection for the last 6 months. This wasn’t observed in workers who hadn’t received the BCG vaccine.
The results of this observation were documented in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The effects studied did not depend on whether the individual had received vaccination for pneumococcal, influenza, or meningococcal infections.
Reasons for BCG vaccine lowering are unknown.
The co-senior author of the study Moshe Arditi said that it was unclear how antibody levels in the BCG-vaccinated people were lesser. With an MD, she is also a Pediatrics and Biomedical Sciences professor and the Pediatric and Infectious Diseases and Immunology Division director at Cedars-Sinai.
There is a possibility of BCG-vaccinated individuals either having a cellular immune response that is more effective against the virus or having a lesser degree of infection, thus lowering the antibodies for SARS-CoV-2. Arditi expressed how great it would be if a vaccine that was one of the oldest ones were effective against our newest pandemic.
The BCG vaccine was known to act as a protective agent against many other bacterial and viral infections other than TB. Owing to this and its uses in treating respiratory infections and neonatal sepsis, the researchers were interested in studying the vaccine.
BCG vaccine as a beneficial bridge to COVID-19 vaccine
It is known that individuals suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and that too, in its severe form. Despite this fact, the BCG vaccine was seen to lower the antibody levels in them as well.
In use for many decades, the BCG vaccine has proven to be highly safe. This ensures its availability and approval in being considered as COVID-19 vaccine till the specific vaccine comes to the market, as Arditi said. Those susceptible to TB and bladder cancer patients in the US are administered the BCG vaccine approved by FDA.
Ongoing clinical trials for BCG vaccine
The Public Health Research director at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai and associate professor of cardiology, Susan Cheng (MD, MPH, MMSc), spoke about the tuberculosis vaccine’s potential to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection. To test this, many clinical trials must be conducted immediately in a randomized manner, she said. They have launched many of these trials.
As a result, healthcare workers are being recruited in hundreds by Cedars Sinai, one of the country’s centers for conducting these trials, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas A&M University.
Once the trials’ success is confirmed, the BCG vaccine can be used to treat the SARS-CoV-2 infection until a definitive and safe vaccine specific for COVID-19 gets widespread availability.
Author : Deepthi Prakash