TB vaccine could help fight Covid-19

2020-05-12 06:01
The trial of a century-old vaccine could be the answer to Covid-19. PHOTO FOR ILLUSTRATION: Samantha lee-Jacobs

The trial of a century-old vaccine could be the answer to Covid-19. PHOTO FOR ILLUSTRATION: Samantha lee-Jacobs

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The trial of a 100-year-old tuberculosis (TB) vaccine in combating Covid-19 is currently underway with the first 500 medical staff already participating.

The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is generally administered to children to help protect them against TB.

With promising pre-trial research showing possible benefits of the vaccine combating the current pandemic, this prospect was further investigated.

The trial of the vaccine started on Monday 4 May, by injecting 250 health care workers with the vaccine and another 250 with a placebo.

The vaccination investigation is being run by Task – a clinical research organisation based in Cape Town who has done much work in the TB research space.

This clinical study is led by Prof Andreas Diacon and Dr Caryn Upton.

“The aim of the study is to determine if BCG (re)vaccination reduces the probability of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and/or the severity of symptoms of Covid-19 disease,” read a statement by Task.

“SARS-CoV-2 has spread rapidly throughout the world. The pandemic seriously challenges the available hospital capacity in South Africa. Strategies to prevent staff absenteeism in an over-run healthcare system are, therefore, desperately needed to safeguard continuous patient care.”

Task further identified BCG for its non-specific protective effects against other respiratory tract infections in children and adults.

South Africa does vaccinate all newborns with BCG.

Re-vaccinating adults could help reduce the consequences of this pandemic, they believe.

Provincial head of health Dr Keith Cloete says the department is excited about the outcome of the innovative research.

“The health department and Task have a long-standing history and we want to acknowledge them. They are doing really ground breaking TB research. There are very few groups in the world doing the kind of research they do,” says Cloete.

“Because we have done such a lot of TB research in the Western Cape, it is really good for us. We support it. It is early days and we do not want to pronounce on the results. We want to see evidence that there is protective qualities associated with the research. We are really watching it with keen interest and great support.”

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