Friday 10 July 2020

Will TB vaccine help healthcare workers fight corona? Dutch hospitals experiment

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Nijmegen and Utrecht academic hospitals are to experiment with using a tuberculosis vaccine (BCG) to try to better protect hospital workers against coronavirus.

The vaccine is known to stimulate the immune system and may lead to healthcare workers who do pick up the virus having milder symptoms, researchers say.

The experiment, which has been approved by the medical ethics testing commission, involves giving 500 workers the vaccine and a further 500 a placebo. If the vaccine appears to have an effect, all healthcare workers given the option.

‘We are in the middle of the outbreak so we want the results as quickly as possible,’ said Marc Bonten, professor of molecular epidemiology at the UMC Utrecht.

Research has indicated that the vaccine stimulates immune systems to better fight off flu, but it is not known if there is a similar effect with coronavirus.

‘That is precisely the reason for this research,’ said Mihai Netea, professor of experimental medicine at Radboud’s medical centre. ‘If fewer people in the vaccinated group become ill, than that will be an encouraging result.’

While work is underway on developing a vaccine against coronavirus, experts say it will take months if not years before one has been identified and produced.

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