In a new study, researchers found that a widely used tuberculosis vaccine is linked to a reduced likelihood of contracting COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The findings raise the possibility that a vaccine already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may help prevent coronavirus infections or reduce the severity of the disease.
The research was conducted by a team at Cedars-Sinai.
The vaccine, known as Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), was developed between1908 and 1921 and is administered to more than 100 million children around the world every year.
In the U.S., it is FDA-approved as a drug to treat bladder cancer and as a vaccine for people at high risk of contracting TB.
The BCG vaccine 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 BCG vaccine is currently being tested in multiple clinical trials worldwide for effectiveness against COVID-19.
In the study, the team tested the blood of more than 6,000 healthcare workers in the Cedars-Sinai Health System for evidence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and also asked them about their medical and vaccination histories.
They found that workers who had received BCG vaccinations in the past-nearly 30% of those studied-were much less likely to test positive for COVID-19 or to report having had infections with coronavirus or coronavirus-associated symptoms over the prior six months than those who had not received BCG.
These effects were not related to whether workers had received meningococcal, pneumococcal, or influenza vaccinations.
In addition, the lower COVID-19 risk in the BCG group persisted despite the fact that these individuals had higher frequencies of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases, and COPD, which are known risk factors for COVID-19.
The reasons for the lower SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels in the BCG group were not clear.
It appears that BCG-vaccinated people 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.
The team says it would it be wonderful if one of the oldest vaccines could help defeat the world’s newest pandemic.
One author of the study is Moshe Arditi, MD.
The study is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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