Countries with tuberculosis vaccination policies report a lower incidence of and deaths from COVID-19, a new report examining 178 nations has found.
Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a vaccine for tuberculosis often administered at birth among countries like India that have historically suffered the disease, unlike the US, Italy, and Holland.
Amid the search for a vaccine for COVID-19, several potential options including chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, are being tested as the death toll from the zoonotic disease continues to rise.
Experts had found that BCG does more than to prevent TB. It also leads to reduction of infant deaths from a variety of causes while lowering the chances that a baby would suffer respiratory infections.
In a new development, countries that do not have a BCG vaccination policy were reported to have seen “ten times more” the incidence of and mortality from COVID-19, compared with those who do.
In a paper published on Research Gate, some Indian researchers looked at COVID-19 incidence and death across 178 countries for 15 days between March 9 and 24 and made some findings.
The “incidence of COVID-19 was 38.4 per million in countries with BCG vaccination compared to 358.4 per million in the absence of such a program,” EconomicTimes quoted the researchers to have said.
“The death rate was 4.28/million in countries with BCG programs compared to 40/million in countries without such a program.”
Their findings come as clinical trials to test BCG against COVID-19 began in Australia, although what it means for those who were vaccinated remains unclear as SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread.
“We expected to see a protective effect of BCG but the difference in incidence and mortality of COVID-19 between countries with and without the vaccination program was surprising,” Ashish Kamat, a co-author of the paper, said.
“Countries with a national program of BCG vaccination appear to have a lower incidence and death rate from COVID-19. This may be due to the known immunological benefits of BCG vaccination.
“In the absence of a specific vaccination against COVID-19, population-based BCG vaccination may have a role in reducing the impact of this disease.”
According to the researchers, another study would follow to test about 1000 healthcare workers, who are considered to be most at risk of the disease, under the supervision of regulatory agencies.