Multiple shots of the BCG vaccine protect type 1 diabetics from COVID-19

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Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital published a paper in Cell Reports MedicineMultiple doses (BCG) of the Bacillus Kalmette-Guerin vaccine against COVID-19 or other infectious diseases has been shown to have a protective effect.

The researchers conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind study on patients with type 1 Diabetes at the beginning of the pandemic. They found that 12.5% and 1% respectively of those treated with placebo met criteria for COVID-19. This yielded a vaccine efficacy of 92%.

BCG-vaccinated individuals also showed protection against other infectious diseases. This included fewer symptoms, lower severity, and fewer cases per patient. There were no systemic adverse events related to BCG.

BCG’s broad-based protection against infection suggests that it may also provide protection against new SARS variants and other pathogens.

The researchers hope the results will inspire a larger study of the BCG vaccination’s effects in type 1 diabetic patients. These patients are considered the most vulnerable group to COVID-19.

The BCG vaccine is an anti-tuberculosis strain of Mycobacterium bovis. It was originally given to protect against tuberculosis. Since its introduction in 1921 it has been the most widely used vaccine in medicine’s history.

BCG, which is considered to be extremely safe is included on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It is administered to approximately 100 million children every year in around 100 countries. BCG is also a very affordable medicine, with many doses costing less than one dollar.

Multiple studies have shown that type 1 diabetic adults who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a higher risk of developing severe illness.

“We found that three doses BCG were administered before the outbreak of the pandemic to prevent infection and reduce severe symptoms of COVID-19 and other infectious disease.

“Unlike antigen-specific vaccinations currently in use for COVID-19 prevention, BCG’s mechanism does not limit to a specific virus of infection,” Denise Faustman MD Ph.D., director at the Immunobiology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Participants in the COVID trial had previously participated in a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of the BCG vaccination for type 1 diabetes. Participants in the COVID trial had received multiple vaccines before the pandemic began in early 2020.

“This data set, which includes multiple doses of BCG vaccinations, is very unique and exciting. They had never been exposed to tuberculosis before the trial. This eliminates the main confounding factors which have limited other trials.

“The results support the idea that BCG needs time to have a clinical effect, but its effects may then be very lasting and durable,” says Hazel Dockrell, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, an infectious diseases expert who was not officially involved in the study.

The ongoing Phase IIb clinical trial that tested BCG as a treatment in adults with type 1 diabetes was analyzed in the COVID-19 study. For 15 months, patients were followed up for COVID-19 related outcomes.

The COVID-19 trial resulted in the following: COVID-19 infection rates, COVID-19-related symptoms, reduction overall infections disease, and SARS-CoV-2 antibody level presence and intensity. The type 1 diabetes outcomes of this study were not unblinded and will be unblinded upon completion of the trial in 2023.

Multi-center clinical trial launched for new treatment of pediatric type 1 diabetes

More information:
Multiple BCG vaccines to prevent COVID-19, and other infectious diseases, in Type 1 Diabetes. Denise L. Faustman, et al. Cell Reports Medicine (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100728

Provided by
Massachusetts General Hospital

Multiple shots of the BCG vaccine protect type-1 diabetics against COVID-19 (2022 August 16).
Retrieved 16 Aug 2022
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