MONDAY, July 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A tuberculosis vaccine could help reduce the risk of death from COVID-19, the researchers suggest.
Developing countries have lower rates of mortality from COVID-19 than expected, and a tuberculosis vaccine administered in countries with high rates of TB could play an important role in reducing death rates from COVID-19, according to the authors of a new study.
The vaccine, which is routinely given to children in countries where TB infection is common, is called Bacille Calmette-Guérin, or BCG for short. It is not widely used in the United States.
“In our initial research, we found that countries with high rates of BCG vaccinations had lower mortality rates,” said Luis Escobar, assistant professor at the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech.
“But all countries are different: Guatemala has a younger population than, say, Italy, so we had to adjust the data to account for these differences,” he said in a press release from the university.
For the study, Escobar and colleagues from the United States National Institutes of Health collected data on COVID-19-related deaths worldwide.
They adjusted variables such as income, access to education and health services, population and age distribution. For all variables, there was a persistent link between higher rates of BCG vaccination and lower COVID-19 mortality rates.
“The goal of using the BCG vaccine to protect against severe COVID-19 would be to stimulate broad, innate, rapid-response immunity,” said Escobar.
BCG vaccines have been shown to offer broad protection against several viral respiratory diseases in addition to tuberculosis.
The results are preliminary and have not proven cause and effect. More research is needed, said Escobar.
“We are not trying to advise policy with this document,” said Escobar. “It is, on the contrary, a call for more research. We need to see if we can replicate this in experiments and, potentially, in clinical trials. We also need to come back to the data as we get more information, so that we can reassess our understanding of the coronavirus pandemic. ”
The World Health Organization has stated that there is no current evidence that the BCG vaccine can protect against COVID-19, and that it is not recommended for this purpose.
Clinical trials are underway to determine whether BCG vaccination in adults provides protection against severe COVID-19.
The study was published July 9 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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