The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is known for being a vaccine used in countries where there’s a TB endemic, studies have now found out that it may also help protect against coronavirus. The researchers of a trial by Parel’s Haffkine Research Institute and BJ Medical College, Pune found that a single shot of the vaccine could ease breathlessness and may even prevent the severity of moderately ill COVID patients.
The study was conducted on 60 COVID positive patients who were hospitalized with breathlessness and pneumonia. Half of the patients were administered with the vaccine dose, and the other half weren’t. Researchers claimed to have found a reduction in the requirement of oxygen from the third or fourth day of the vaccine and improved x-rays and CT scans from day 7-15.
No deaths were administered in the group that got the shot, whereas there were two reported deaths in the groups that did not. The published findings are yet to be peer-reviewed, found that those who were vaccinated had higher COVID antibody levels.
BCG was proven as a safe, cost-effective treatment that can be introduced in the standard care of COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia-like symptoms. Dr. Usha Padmanabhan, a lead researcher from Haffkine said that the vaccine showed an improvement, and resolution of pneumonia was seen in the vaccinated patients which indicated localized effects in lung and innate immunity.
This trial was done on patients hospitalized with an oxygen saturation of less than 94% and had radiologically confirmed pneumonia. Four of the patients in the non-vaccinated group needed Remdesivir, a drug that is used to treat COVID against one patient in the vaccinated group.
Earlier, the BCG vaccine was used in a study from the ICMR’s National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis in Chennai to treat elderly individuals. It was found that the elderly patients who were administered with the vaccine to enhance their innate and adaptive immunity, which may help protect against COVID-19. This study is also yet to be peer-reviewed and is one of the first clinical trials to examine the efficacy of the BCG vaccine with the pandemic.
The ICMR-NIRT trial involved 86 people aged 60-80 years, who were divided into two groups. The number of people who received the vaccine was 44, whereas the rest of the 32 did not. All the participants were followed up after a month of receiving the vaccine.
The study found that BCG vaccination-induced and enhanced the frequency of memory CD4+T and CD8+ T cells – which trigger the signaling protein that mediates an immediate response.
The vaccine also enhanced memory B cells- which can survive for a long period of time and trigger an antibody-mediated immune response in case of reinfection. The study however did not test the participants for COVID19. With both of the tests and research in hand, it can be seen that the BCG vaccine does prove effective in increasing the immunity of a person and helping them battle the virus.