Generic BCG Vaccine Could Be Effective Against COVID-19

COVID-19 Vaccine Artist Concept

BCG vaccine is safe and does not lead to an increased risk of COVID-19 symptoms. More studies need to confirm whether this generic vaccine could have a positive effect as well.

The BCG vaccine, a vaccine originally made against tuberculosis, has a general stimulating effect on the immune system and is therefore effective against multiple infectious diseases – possibly also against COVID-19. This study compared groups of volunteers who have received a BCG vaccine (or not) in the past five years (before the corona pandemic), showing that the vaccine is safe and possibly influences COVID-19 symptoms.

The results of this research have now been published in Cell Reports Medicine.

The Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine is the most widely received vaccine in the world. Originally intended to treat tuberculosis, it later became apparent that it provides a long-lasting, general boost to the innate immune system. The vaccine was therefore also effective against other conditions. At Radboud university medical center, Professor of Experimental Internal Medicine Mihai Netea and his team conduct research into these effects, referred to as “trained immunity.”

The 300BCG study is a result of his work, in which a group of healthy volunteers received the BCG vaccine and could thus be compared to a group of healthy volunteers who did not. Most volunteers received the vaccine between April 2017 and June 2018. The purpose of that study was to determine the difference in the immune response, but now that the corona pandemic is present, the same subjects were questioned to see if there is an effect of the vaccine on the symptoms attributable to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s safe, perhaps a positive effect

What the comparison between the groups shows is that those who received the vaccine did not have more symptoms, did not get sick more often or become more seriously ill, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands. The data show also a cautiously positive picture, with a lower number of sick people in the period March-May 2020 among the BCG-vaccinated group, and also lower incidence of extreme fatigue among the vaccinated individuals.

The researchers underline that this was to be expected given the well-known effects of the BCG vaccine on healthy volunteers. However, the study also has limitations that prevent conclusions from being drawn regarding the benefit of the BCG vaccine against the novel coronavirus: “It is very important to confirm that someone who has been vaccinated with BCG does not experience any increased symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we see less sickness in the people who have had the BCG vaccination, only the ongoing prospective BCG vaccination studies can determine whether this vaccination can help against COVID-19,” says professor Mihai Netea of Radboudumc.

Various clinical randomized trials are already underway to answer this question, including several in the Netherlands.

Reference: “Safety and COVID-19 symptoms in individuals recently vaccinated with BCG: aretrospective cohort study” by Simone J.C.F.M. Moorlag, Rosanne C. van Deuren, Cornelis H. van Werkhoven, Martin Jaeger, Priya Debisarun, Esther Taks, Vera P. Mourits, Valerie A.C.M. Koeken, L. Charlotte J. de Bree, Thijs ten Doesschate, Maartje C. Cleophas, Sanne Smeekens, Marije Oosting, Frank L. van de Veerdonk, Leo A.B. Joosten, Jaap ten Oever, Jos W.M. van der Meer, Nigel Curtis, Peter Aaby, Christine Stabell-Benn, Evangelos J. Giamarellos-Bourboulis, Marc Bonten, Reinout van Crevel and Mihai G.Netea, Accepted 26 July 2020, Cell Reports Medicine.
DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2020.100073


View Comments

  • If anyone positively thinks Covid19 is the last of a long string of deadly pathogens that was dispersed inside China and the Middle East in the past 10 years alone then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The inexpensive $1 a dose BCG TB Vaccine appears to ramp up the immunity system for 2 decades (20 years) not only against Covid19 but those that are just as likely to come next and thereafter as well. What is disconcerting is the USA Gov appears to be deliberately blocking individual State's Health Dept's from obtaining and distributing that vaccine to American citizens. The only con I'm aware of is the possibility of a false positive tb test that would then require the person to have their medical vaccine records handy to indicate they received the BCG TB Vaccine.

  • Sounds like a little bake engineering is needed. Checking health records of people who have died as a results of covid 19. And if they had BCG Vcination also individuals that showed imunity on Heath test. Recognising many individuals in later life may have lost this imunity, including myself. Being tested age 40yrs found to have lost my immunity. Working for NHS was vaccinated. This may explain (if the vaccine is effective) why the UK death rate is so high.

Radboud University Medical Center

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