A century-old tuberculosis vaccine could protect health care workers from the coronavirus, according to a report.
Some 4,000 health workers in hospitals across Australia will be administered the bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG vaccine, as part of a six-month trial set to begin Monday, Bloomberg reported.
Researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne will be probing whether the vaccine — which has been widely used for about 100 years — can reduce COVID-19 symptoms.
“Although originally developed against tuberculosis, and still given to over 130 million babies annually for that purpose, BCG also boosts humans’ ‘frontline’ immunity, training it to respond to germs with greater intensity,” researchers said in a statement.
The participants will be enrolled in the trial within weeks following fast-track approval from health authorities.
“The clock is definitely ticking,” said lead researcher Nigel Curtis, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne and head of the infectious diseases unit at the city’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
Some participating workers will vaccinated against the seasonal influenza and TB, while others receive the flu shot alone in order to set a baseline for comparison, according to Bloomberg.
Researchers will take blood samples at the start and end of the trial to determine who contracted coronavirus, and participants will log any symptoms, the outlet reported. Midway through the trial, analysts will review the results for any indication that the TB vaccine is effective.
In Africa, studies on infants revealed that the BCG vaccine protects against TB and other pediatric infections — enhancing the body’s innate immune system and specifically the response of white blood cells, according to the report.
“It can boost the immune system so that it defends better against a whole range of different infections, a whole range of different viruses and bacteria in a lot more generalized way,” Curtis told the outlet of the vaccine.
Similar research is underway in the Netherlands, and Curtis said he’s in contact with potential trial sites in Boston and other parts of Australia, according to the report.
“We need to think of every possible way that we can protect health care workers,” Curtis said. “And there’s going to be a particular need to reduce the amount of time that our health care workers are absent.”
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute was established with the support of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, whose son, Rupert Murdoch, is executive chairman of News Corp., the parent company off the New York Post.