Can BCG vaccine help in coronavirus fight?

A new study conducted by the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) has given a ray of hope in fighting the battle against the lethal COVID-19 disease. USA scientists say that the BCG or the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, given to millions of Indian children after birth to protect them against tuberculosis, could be a "game-changer" in the battle against the deadly coronavirus.

The report indicates that those who have been vaccinated with BCG at some point of their lives have lower death rate than others. Scientists are now testing the BCG vaccine to check if it actually boosts the immune system and helps in reducing the respiratory symptoms, in people who are tested positive for COVID-19.

BCG is basically a tuberculosis vaccine which was introduced in the 1920s to fight tuberculosis. India had the world's highest number of tuberculosis cases back then, which is the reason why its mass immunization was ordered in 1948.
The team compared various nations’ BCG vaccination policies with their COVID-19 mortality rate. Rather astonishing results were found in which a ‘positive correlation’ was found between the year when universal BCG vaccination policies were adopted and the country's mortality rate.

In other words, the earlier the vaccination policy would be adopted, the more likely that a significant portion of the population, especially the elderly, would be protected.

The study also found the death rate in nations with a BCG vaccination programme was 4.28 per million, while in countries without the programme was 40 per million.

The BCG vaccine constitutes of a live but weakened strain of tuberculosis bacteria that produces antibodies to attack TB bacteria. It further helps the body in developing a defense against the disease.

Clinical trials of BCG are focused on two groups at high-risk for COVID-19 -- health care workers at the forefront and the elderly, who are more vulnerable to the deadlier form of infection.

The vaccine is also believed to protect the body against different types of respiratory infections, which have similar symptoms to COVID-19, the researchers said.

On the other hand, India doctors say that it is too early to pin hopes on the vaccine. They said that there is a need to conduct ‘large-scale epidemiological studies’ before coming to any conclusion.

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