A century-old vaccine that has been in use to prevent tuberculosis is now being administered to health care workers in Melbourne to gauge if it could shield them from contracting the coronavirus, Bloomberg has reported. The bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, is renowned in the medical fraternity for its usefulness in a range of other situations, besides tuberculosis. The Bloomberg report noted that the BCG also has applications as an immunotherapy drug in early-stage bladder cancer and training the human body to ward off infections.
In fact, the push to test whether BCG could prove to be an effective resistant drug to keep people from contracting COVID-19 is being led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has called upon researchers from across the globe to collaborate with the Melbourne group conducting the trials.
The Melbourne study is being led by Nigel Curtis, head of infectious diseases research, at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. Curtis is also a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne, one of Australia's premier universities. Bloomberg quoted Curtis as saying that the drug could boost the immune system so that it could resist a range of infections, viruses, and bacteria in a "more generalised way."
The trials to test the effectiveness of the drug began on Monday, as part of which 4,000 health-care workers will be randomly allocated to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza and tuberculosis, the New York-headquartered publication reported.
Another research on BCG's implications for COVID-19 is ongoing in the Netherlands. The University of Melbourne academic said that he was also in discussion with trial sites in other Australian cities. Giving an idea of the modus operandi, it has been revealed that blood samples taken at the start and end of the trial will determine who could be infected with the coronavirus. The results are slated to be reviewed after three months to see if the approach is successful, Bloomberg reported.
Curtis, however, is careful to not give any assurance as of yet. “We cannot guarantee that this will work. And of course, the only way to find out is with our trial,” Bloomberg quoted him as saying.