The study, led by UMC Utrecht and Radboudumc Nijmegen, requires six thousand people over 60. Amsterdam UMC is good for 500 participants, says researcher Martijn Knap.
”It sounds strange. A vaccination to keep the TB bacteria in check can help if you are infected with a respiratory virus. Just some explanation. It's about the BCG vaccine. BCG stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin. It is almost a hundred years old and it was special at the time that you could protect yourself preventively against the disease tuberculosis, a disease in the lungs after infection with a bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB sometimes has a serious course. Especially in the past when there was no antibiotic to fight the bacteria. Thanks to vaccination and better medicines, the disease can now be treated well, especially in high-income countries. Elsewhere, the disease still takes a heavy toll.
How could this BCG vaccine possibly affect viral respiratory infections? Knap explains about the immune system. There is the innate and the acquired immune system. It has only been known for a few years that the innate immune system can be "trained". And coincidentally, the BCG vaccine does that, says Knap. “The idea is that the vaccine boosts innate immunity and increases resistance against viruses and other pathogens. Whether this is correct is already being investigated among healthcare workers and now the idea is to see whether this also applies to older, vulnerable people. For this study, those over 60 are being treated by a specialist.
”It is not entirely speculative that the BCG vaccine does something against corona. It is noticeable that corona in Africa gets relatively less solid ground than in other parts of the world. “A possible explanation is that the BCG vaccine is given to children there on a large scale,” says professor of Tropical Medicine Martin Grobusch, under whose direction the research is carried out in Amsterdam UMC. "But there are many other explanations for this."
Vaccine or fake liquid
The structure of the study is simple. Half of the volunteers are given a fake liquid, the other half the vaccine. Volunteer and researcher don't know what they are getting. After that, a health questionnaire must be completed regularly (weekly or every fortnight). This can be done by telephone or via an app on the mobile phone. Anyone who so wishes will have blood taken for further examination. The research is finished after six months. Knap: “If it turns out that the BCG vaccine does indeed protect against respiratory infections, all volunteers who have received the placebo will be offered a free vaccination. Travel costs are reimbursed and those arriving by car receive an exit ticket for the parking garage. There is no further compensation. ”
Anyone who wants to participate in the study can register via m.r.knap@amsterdamUMC.nl or 020 5663880. All patients of Amsterdam UMC aged 60 and older can therefore participate. the participant must not have a reduced immune system due to HIV, a transplant or cancer. Also, he or she has not had tuberculosis or tested positive for Covid-19.