The humble century-old BCG vaccine taken by every child in India could be the answer to fight Coronavirus, researchers in various countries are looking at this angle especially when a mutation in India is comparatively low than Europe where this vaccination is not so common nowadays.
Researchers in several countries are testing the century-old tuberculosis vaccine to see if it can give a boost to the immune system to help it fight off the novel coronavirus now causing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clinical trials of the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which was first developed in the early 1920s, are planned in Europe and Australia to see if it can help reduce the prevalence and severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne are currently working to enrol 4,000 healthcare workers from hospitals around Australia in one study.
“This trial will allow the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19 symptoms to be properly tested, and may help save the lives of our heroic frontline healthcare workers,” MCRI Director Professor Kathryn North said in a release.
A separate large-scale study is planned to include older patients and health care workers at several hospitals in Germany and similar trials are in the works in the Netherlands, the UK and Greece.
This work is very different from the efforts underway to develop a vaccine to confer specific immunity to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2. BCG has a spotty track record giving immunity against even the disease it was developed for, tuberculosis. But as one of the few tools available to fight that disease, it has stuck around for decades and a number of studies have shown that it seems to offer other benefits.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology developed the vaccine candidate VPM1002 based off of BCG earlier this century, which will be used for the trial starting soon in Germany. VPM1002 has been shown to protect the respiratory tracts of mice from viral infections.
“In addition, VPM1002 can be manufactured using state-of-the-art manufacturing methods which would make millions of doses available in a very short time”, says Adar C. Poonawalla, CEO and Executive Director, Serum Institute of India in a statement.