Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a tuberculosis vaccine routinely given to children in countries with high rates of tuberculosis infection.
It has already been shown to provide broad cross-protection for a number of viral respiratory illnesses in addition to tuberculosis.
In a recent study at the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that BCG may play a big role in reducing mortality rates in COVID-19.
They found that countries with high rates of BCG vaccinations had lower rates of mortality.
The study is published in PNAS. One author is Assistant Professor Luis Escobar of the College of Natural Resources and Environment.
One of the emerging questions about the coronavirus that scientists are working to understand is why developing countries are showing markedly lower rates of mortality in COVID-19 cases than expected.
To answer the question, the team collected coronavirus mortality data from around the world.
Through all of the variables, a link held showing that countries with higher rates of BCG vaccinations had lower peak mortality rates from COVID-19.
One sample that stood out was Germany, which had different vaccine plans prior to the country’s unification in 1990.
While West Germany provided BCG vaccines to infants from 1961 to 1998, East Germany started their BCG vaccinations a decade earlier but stopped in 1975.
This means that older Germans—the population most at risk from COVID-19—in the country’s eastern states would have more protection from the current pandemic than their peers in western German states.
The team found western German states have experienced mortality rates that are 2.9 times higher than those in eastern Germany.
They say the purpose of using the BCG vaccine to protect from severe COVID-19 would be to stimulate a broad, innate, rapid-response immunity.
They stress that the findings are preliminary and that further research is needed to support their results and determine what the next steps should be for researchers.
There are currently clinical trials underway to establish whether BCG vaccination in adults confers protection from severe COVID-19.
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