/ picture alliance, BSIP
Cape Town – In search of a drug for the lung disease COVID-19, South African scientists have started a test with the BCG tuberculosis vaccine with 500 test subjects. “The clinical trial has started, we vaccinated the first few participants this morning,” said Duncan McDonald of the medical research organization Task today. 250 people received a BCG injection and another 250 a placebo.
“Some observations suggest that BCG has an impact on the immune system that we still don’t fully understand, including that it strengthens the immune system against respiratory infections,” said Andreas Diacon, who heads the study at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. Several studies have shown that children vaccinated with BCG are less likely to suffer from respiratory diseases.
That is why the scientists in South Africa are now trying to find out whether BCG is also effective against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2: “If we could only reduce the COVID-19 symptoms a little, this would increase the chances of survival for people. Or they wouldn’t even have to go to the hospital or they wouldn’t even get sick, ”said Diacon.
The Cape Town clinical trial is for nurses “because we believe they are the most exposed,” Diacon said. The study should be expanded to up to 3,000 health care workers in Cape Town. The participants are therefore observed for at least one year.
In South Africa, around 300,000 people contract tuberculosis each year – one of the highest infection rates in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 63,000 people die of the disease annually in the country.
Clinical studies similar to those in South Africa are currently underway in the Netherlands, Australia and France to demonstrate the potential protective effects of BCG. Subjects in the Netherlands and Australia received the vaccination for the first time ever, since vaccination against tuberculosis is no longer carried out in these countries.
BCG vaccination has also not been recommended in Germany by the Standing Vaccination Committee at the Robert Koch Institute since 1998. © afp / aerzteblatt.de