Cape Town / Hanover. Research is being conducted worldwide to find an active ingredient against the coronavirus. The “vaccination wheel” does not necessarily have to be reinvented; studies with a tuberculosis vaccine are already underway in various countries. The scientists want to find out whether vaccination reduces the likelihood of developing Covid-19 or weakens the course of the disease.
As the “Ärzteblatt” reports, South African scientists have now started an experiment with the tuberculosis vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) with 500 test subjects. 250 people had received a BCG injection and another 250 had been given a placebo.
BCG works against respiratory infections
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Andreas Diacon leads the study at the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. He told AFP news agency that some observations would suggest that BCG has an impact on the immune system, including that it strengthens the immune system against respiratory infections. The assumption does not appear to be entirely unfounded. “Controlled studies have shown that BCG can indeed protect against viral respiratory infections,” said infection biologist Stefan Kaufmann recently from Deutsche Welle.
Long-term study: BCG against coronavirus?
The scientists in Cape Town are now trying to find out whether BCG is also effective against the novel corona virus. “If we could only reduce the COVID-19 symptoms a little, it would increase the chances of survival for people. Or they would not even have to go to the hospital or get sick,” said AFP Diacon Study to be expanded to up to 3000 healthcare workers over a period of at least one year.
Studies also in Germany
Similar studies are also underway in the Netherlands, Australia and Germany – although in most countries there is no longer any vaccination against tuberculosis. In Germany, the BCG vaccination has not been recommended by the Standing Vaccination Committee at the Robert Koch Institute since 1998. However, the current study is testing a vaccine developed by the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology called “VPM 1002” – this is only based on the BCG vaccine. According to Deutsche Welle, studies in mice have shown that VPM 1002 activates the immune system and could significantly reduce viral infections such as Covid-19.
The new tuberculosis vaccine is being tested for effectiveness in the current pandemic situation at the Hannover Medical School (MHH). 1000 subjects from the medical field take part in the first nationwide study – another study with 1800 older people is to follow. A MHH press release states: “If the studies show that the vaccinated do indeed develop Covid-19 less frequently or less severely, risk groups such as clinic staff and particularly vulnerable people could be vaccinated with VPM 1002 in a few months.”
WHO remains covered
In April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized that there was no evidence that the BCG vaccine protected people from coronavirus infection. The WHO wants to wait for the results of the clinical studies and then evaluate whether a recommendation for a BCG vaccine, for the prevention of Covid-19, is given.
In a recent article in the English journal “The Lancet”, the WHO also points out that the BCG vaccine is already quite scarce, so that it must be ensured that children at risk in areas with a high risk of tuberculosis continue to be important Vaccination.