The BCG vaccine, originally used against tuberculosis (TB) and widely used in other countries where the risk of contracting it is high, could alleviate the severe symptoms of coronavirus. Tests are currently being carried out to measure its effects against COVID-19.
A research team from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Australia, presented the idea that BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) could be used to protect professionals and the general public from the COVID-19 virus. BCG was developed 100 years ago for tuberculosis prevention. Mycobacteria tuberculosis is a highly resistant infectious disease that still affects almost 10 million people every year.
At present, the management of COVID-19 is symptomatic. Research on specific treatments in the form of vaccines is ongoing. Antiviral treatments are also being trialed. It is hypothesized that the BCG vaccine, a “live attenuated vaccine”, can potentially be used to strengthen the immune system and thus prevent severe cases of SARS CoV-2.
Strengthening the Immune System
It is not about presenting BCG as a miracle cure for the coronavirus. Vaccinated individuals would not be immune to the virus. On the other hand, the vaccine would limit the risk of developing a severe form of the disease. It could trigger “an immune response that has a positive effect against the virus”.
BCG as the ability to boost immunity and enable our bodies to mount a more robust response against other pathogens. BCG is still being used to vaccinate more than 130 million babies a year.
“Since the immunity induced by BCG is about 5 to 7 years, its protection – if it still exists – must be very low”. But a new injection can “awaken” the immunity in a few hours or days. And why not help the body fight this new virus,” Professor Camille Locht, Inserm’s research director at the Institut Pasteur in Lille, told Le Point magazine.
International Clinical Trials
Australia is not the only country testing the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine against the new coronavirus. The World Health Organization has approved the research, and many countries are now starting clinical trials. These include the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France.
However, Jerome Salomon, Director-General for Health, said that the French have already been massively vaccinated against tuberculosis. “This is a French particularity. The vaccine is compulsory for health professionals. We do not have the same situation in France as in other countries where the BCG is not compulsory or is not proposed,” he stressed.
If this evidence proves conclusive, it could explain why younger people (who have recently been vaccinated) are statistically less affected by severe forms of COVID-19.