Trail Tests the Effectiveness of BCG Vaccines Against SARS-CoV-2

The study is based on a global trial to test the theory that the widely used BCG vaccine could help protect against COVID-19 will soon recruit healthcare staff in the UK. The University of Exeter is leading the trial known as the ‘BCG vaccination to Reduce the impact of COVID-19 in healthcare workers’ (BRACE) Trial. The study centers combined Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Brazil in the largest trial of its kind. Collectively, the trial will recruit more than 10,000 healthcare staff. Participants will be given either the BCG vaccine or a placebo injection.

In the UK, the regular BCG vaccination was stopped in 2005 because of the low rates of TB in the general population. Researcher John Campbell, the lead on the “BRACE” said that there have been a million deaths due to COVID-19 globally with over 33 million people acquiring the disease. BCG has been shown to boost immunity in a generalized way by ‘training’ the immune system to respond to other subsequent infections with greater intensity. This may offer some protection against COVID-19. They as a team are contributing to the large-scale, international BRACE study where they are seeking to establish whether the BCG vaccine could help protect people who are at risk of COVID-19. If it does, it could save lives by administering or topping up this readily available and cost-effective vaccination.

Previously conducted studies suggest that the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine could reduce susceptibility to a range of infections caused by viruses including those similar to COVID-19. Inspecting the mechanism by which this may work is part of the trial being directed by BRACE researchers. With a hope that this improved ‘innate immunity’ will buy crucial time to develop an effective and safe vaccine against COVID-19, the BRACE trial is initially recruiting care and healthcare workers in the South West of England. The target of the trial is these professionals because they work in fields with high exposure to COVID-19. The trial is specifically looking at whether the BCG vaccine reduces coronavirus infection or the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. Research scientist Lynne Quinn said the trial is initially seeking 1,000 participants in the community healthcare settings.

The first wave of recruitment, she states, will take place in and around Exeter, and will have better plans to expand to other sites across the UK with a hope to expand the recruitment numbers at a later stage. Participants will be required to complete a daily symptom diary through an app, they will be tested for COVID-19 whenever they have symptoms, and they will complete a regular questionnaire in addition to providing blood samples. This engagement will allow scientists to understand how blood cells respond differently to exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses, with and without the BCG vaccine. 

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