Coronavirus More Active In Countries Without TB Vaccine Policy: Study

A US university study has claimed that the BCG vaccine used against Tuberculosis may be a reason for fewer deaths due to the novel coronavirus in some nations.

3 April 2020 7:22 AM GMT
Coronavirus More Active In Countries Without TB Vaccine Policy: Study

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A US university study has claimed that the BCG vaccine used against Tuberculosis may be a reason for fewer deaths due to the novel coronavirus in some nations.

The Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of New York study has suggested that the countries with Universal BCG vaccination policy have reported fewer COVID-19 cases as compared to countries which do not have the vaccination policy.

Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) named after french bacteriologists Albert Calmette and Camilla Guerin is administered on infants to create immunity against TB in some countries such as Japan, India, and China.

Countries like Italy, USA, Spain, and France, which do not have the vaccination policy, have reported more positive cases and subsequent deaths than in countries like Japan, India, and China.

Australia has decided to conduct a trial of the BCG vaccine on 4000 health workers in Melbourne to find out if the vaccine can provide any resistance against the coronavirus disease. Netherlands, UK and Greece are also bracing to conduct similar tests.

Since there is no specific vaccination against the coronavirus, the WHO is interested to know whether the BCG vaccine could help in the fight against the disease.

"BCG can boost the immune system and provide better defence against a range of different infections caused by a whole range of different viruses and bacteria in a lot more generalised way," Bloomberg quoted Nigel Curtis, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne, and head of infectious diseases research, at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne as saying. The WHO is encouraging international groups to collaborate with a study led by Curtis.

In India, the vaccine was first used in 1949 and later became a part of the National TB Program in 1962. Today, 97 per cent of the 26 million children are vaccinated free under the National Immunisation Scheme as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

"BCG vaccination produces non-specific immune effects that have been shown to boost response against non-mycobacterial pathogens, and using it to improving innate immunity against COVID-19 would buy time to develop a specific vaccine against the disease," an Indian Council for Medical Research scientist told Hindustan Times requesting anonymity.

It should be noted that BCG cannot fight the coronavirus as it fights bacteria and not viruses but it helps boost the immunity against respiratory infections which is vital against the COVID-19 fallout. BCG vaccination also significantly increases the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, specifically, IL-1B, which play a vital role in antiviral immunity.

With a population of 1.3 billion, India could turn out to be the disease hotspot if the containment measures fail. A large number of the Indian population comes below the poverty line and barely gets to two meals a day and finds it hard to access health care facilities. If the vaccine turns out to be effective even in delaying the spread of coronavirus as the ICMR scientist pointed out, several people would be saved.

Also Read: India To Accept Foreign Donations To PM CARES Fund To Fight Coronavirus Pandemic

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Shubhendu, the quint essential news junky, the man who loves science and politics in equal measure and offers the complete contrast to it by being a fan of urdu poetry as well.

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