BCG vax effective against Covid, clinical trial report submitted to ICMR

In order to prevent the virus from spreading, King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital had conducted a clinical trial of the anti-tuberculosis vaccination (TB) — Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) on senior citizens last year. A report on this was submitted to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The trial was conducted on 112 volunteers between 60 to 80 years of age. Health officials said that the BCG vaccine has been effective and none of the participants have shown any side effects or developed complications. Meanwhile, the clinical trial is in the final stage and they are waiting for the results.

Overall 1,450 elderly people in six red and orange zones were tested at KEM hospital in Mumbai, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT) in Chennai, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) in Ahmedabad, National Institute in Environmental Health (NIREH) in Bhopal and National Institute for Implementation Research on Non-Communicable Diseases (NIIRNCD) in Jodhpur.

Dr. Rujuta Hadaye, professor, department of general medicine, KEM hospital, said this was the first clinical trial involving senior citizens. The reports have been submitted to the ICMR.

“As per our observations, the vaccine may be effective against Covid as there were no major side effects in the volunteers. However, we are waiting for the report from ICMR,” she said.

Often Covid patients develop inflammatory reactions that lead to severity of their infection and, at times, even death. Doctors said that the BCG vaccine may have a deleterious effect on Covid.

“Several types of research have shown that people who received BCG vaccine either did not fall ill or weren’t serious. It has long-lasting effects to boost the immune system. It is believed that despite having such a huge population, the Covid fatality rate in India is low because of the BCG vaccine which has been administered to children since the early 90s,” said senior doctors.

The Impact of routine infant BCG vaccination in the young generation on prevention of local Covid-19 spread in Japan” — a study published on August 11 — suggested that BCG vaccination does play an influential role in protecting against the spread of infection on a mass scale. In the conclusion, the authors wrote, “Our findings suggest that routine infant BCG vaccination coverage in the young generation had a significant impact on the prevention of local Covid-19 spread in Japan.”

A senior doctor from the civic health department said the preliminary studies carried out by researchers at Haffkine Institute had also shown the effectiveness of the vaccine in treating Covid-19 patients. “The initial research reportedly had shown that people who have received BCG vaccines were found to be more immune to Covid-19 than those who did not,” said health officials.

Based on the findings, researchers believe the effect of Covid-19 can be reduced in people with mild to moderate symptoms, by administering the BCG vaccine. For those with severe symptoms, the severity of symptoms was reduced to moderate/mild levels when they were administered the vaccine, said the researchers.

The BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) is used to prevent meningitis. It was developed between 1908 and 1921, by French bacteriologists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin, who named the product Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, or BCG.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the BCG vaccine will protect against the viral infection, but it is a hypothesis that needs to be studied by comparing robust data from places where the vaccine is administered and where it is not. However, this vaccine is a known immune-modulator.

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