BCG jab use to protect children from TB could be used 'to buy several years' in search for coronavirus vaccine
A JAB usually given to children to protect them from tuberculosis could buy researchers several more years to find a coronavirus vaccine.
The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine will be trialled globally on 10,000 people after it was found to stimulate the immune system – and experts say it could help fight off Covid-19 until more effective vaccines are discovered.
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The drug was given to Brit schoolchildren for years – and experts say it "does protect against severe coronavirus".
Academics at the University of Exeter will recruit healthcare staff and care home workers to take part in a wide-ranging trial into the drug, the Telegraph reports.
The worldwide study has received more than £7.6million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so it can be tested and rolled out as quickly as possible if successful.
Participants in the trial will be given either the BCG vaccine – currently given to more than 100 million babies worldwide each year to protect against tuberculosis – or a placebo injection.
Routine BCG vaccination in the UK was stopped in 2005 because of low tuberculosis rates in the general population.
Professor John Campbell, of the University of Exeter Medical School, told the BBC: "This could be of major importance globally.
"While we don't think it [the protection] will be specific to Covid, it has the potential to buy several years of time for the Covid vaccines to come through and perhaps other treatments to be developed."
Previous trials show the jab may reduce susceptibility to a range of infections caused by viruses, including those similar to the novel coronavirus.
Trials in South Africa linked the vaccine to a 73 per cent reduction in infections in the nose, throat and lungs.
Healthcare workers in the south-west of England will recruited to participate in the new UK tests.
How does the BCG vaccine work?
Scientists believe the TB vaccine could buy them several more years to develop a coronavirus cure
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) was first produced in 1924 and was given to school children in the UK up until 2005.
The BCG vaccine boosts immunity by "training" the immune system to respond to other subsequent infections with greater intensity.
Researchers hope this improved "innate immunity" will buy crucial time to develop an effective and safe vaccine against Covid-19.
Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, believes the vaccine could work as it seems to trigger something known as "trained immunity" – where the whole immune system is on alert.
He told MailOnline: "The level of alertness remains high for weeks or months after having the vaccine.
"It means you may be less likely to catch infections during that period because the immune system is more likely to respond very quickly if it spots a foreign invader."
Prof Campbell said: "People on the Covid-19 front line, including healthcare workers and care home workers, are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus infection.
"Up until now, care home workers have been overlooked by most research.
"The trial provides us with a great opportunity to offer potential help to this important group of individuals who are providing healthcare to some of our most vulnerable citizens in important community settings.
"I'd really encourage care home staff to join us to help us find out if the BCG vaccine might provide a safe, widely available and cost-effective way to reduce the risk of Covid-19."
It comes as Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, said this week we could have a vaccine by the end of 2020.
He said: “There is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine.”
But on Monday a top adviser warned that half of Brits will get a Covid vaccine, with the elderly being top priority.
Kate Bingham, who was appointed as the chair of the Vaccine Taskforce back in May, said vaccinating the whole country was “not going to happen” with kids set to miss out.
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