Countries that have extensive vaccination programs involving the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) jab have coronavirus the death rate is almost six times lower than countries that don’t use it, a study revealed.
The BCG vaccine was created a century ago and provides immunity against TB (bacterial infection) – but is known to have other benefits.
Previous trials found people who received jabs, which cost only £ 30, had boosted the immune system and were able to protect themselves from infection.
For example, in trials among Native Americans, BCG vaccination in childhood can offer protection against TB up to 60 years after vaccination.
The exact way this durable vaccine helps ward off other infections is relatively unknown but is possible by increasing the innate mechanism of the immune system.
This so-called non-target effect includes increased protection against respiratory diseases, and has been recognized by World Health Organization (WHO).
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Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) (pictured) is used to fend off tuberculosis (TB) but has long been known to have other health benefits, including helping one’s immune system to ward off respiratory infections
In the UK, all school children aged between ten and 14 years were injected with vaccines between 1953 and 2005.
When TB infection rates dropped, doctors abandoned mass vaccination and, in 2005, switched to targeting only those most at risk – such as babies with infected relatives.
The researchers hope it will boost the immune system so that it is in a state of high readiness and is able to detect and destroy viruses before causing damage to the body.
The researchers adjusted for factors that could make these findings skewed, such as state wealth and the percentage of older people in the population.
They then looked at the mortality rate per one million population in each country with adequate data.
Researchers from the US wrote in their paper: ‘After adjusting to the economic status of the country, the proportion of the older population and aligning the epidemic trajectory of the hardest hit countries, interesting observations about the significant relationship between BCG use and the decrease in COVID-19 caused by death remains visible. ‘
This finding was published online on an archive site medRxiv and not in journals because research has not been peer reviewed – the process by which other academics research research.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health experts gather data available for analysis.
Estimates of case fatality rates result from the best data on mortality for the top 50 countries reporting the highest incidence.
“To reduce the bias centered around the differential epidemic time curves experienced by various countries, we counted the days of the 100th positive COVID-19 case to align countries on a more comparable time curve,” the researchers explained.
Cases and deaths were then compared with the vaccination program for the BCG vaccine.
The average death rate is also found to vary greatly according to a country’s economic classification.
The COVID-19 mortality rate per one million for low, middle and high income countries is 0.4, 0.65 and 5.5, respectively.
Researchers call the fact that rich countries have higher mortality rates ‘counter-intuitive’.
The BCG pricks, which are used for every child between the ages of ten to 14, were reduced in 2005 but the researchers hope it will increase the immune system’s immune system so that its readiness level increases and is able to detect and destroy the virus before it wreaks havoc on the body
What is the BCG Vaccine?
BCG is currently given to around 130 million babies every year to protect them from TB.
It has the full name ‘Bacillus Calmette-Guérin’ and displays the weekend version of the bacterium ycobacterium bovis.
These microbes cause TB in animals such as cattle and ferrets.
When injected into people, weak bacteria are attacked by the immune system.
The body then defeats bacteria by producing antibodies.
This can then be produced and used quickly if someone is infected with TB.
The BCG puncture is thought to work this way but also enhances the entire immune system so that it is more likely to destroy invading virus particles.
The NHS says the BCG prick can offer protection for up to 60 years – but scientists are not clear whether adults have been injected when children get protection from the corona virus because there is insufficient evidence.
Academics cannot explain why, but point to previous research which states ‘deaths from acute respiratory disease are usually higher in low-income settings due to several socio-demographic and economic risk factors’.
For example, COVID-19 is known to be more dangerous for people over the age of 65, and this demographic is less densely populated in poor countries.
Researchers say their results must be taken with caution because there are some problems that can damage the findings.
‘[But] in spite of all these warnings, the inverse relationship between the economic status of the country and deaths caused by COVID19, and the strong ecological relationship with BCG vaccination is interesting, ‘
“These findings require deeper epidemiological surveillance and prospective evaluation in individual trials.”
Trials to assess the usefulness of the BCG vaccine in combating a coronavirus pandemic are ongoing.
Last month, the trial began which included 4,000 health workers in Australia.
The trial will be led by researchers at the Melbourne Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and involve 4,000 health workers in various hospitals throughout the country.
The researchers hope giving vaccines and increasing ‘innate immunity’ can buy enough time for special treatments and vaccines to be developed.
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