Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), published a new paper in Cell Reports Medicine demonstrating the protective potential of multiple doses of the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of patients with type 1 diabetes conducted at the start of the pandemic (before COVID-specific vaccines were available), the researchers found that 12.5% of placebo-treated individuals and 1% of BCG-treated individuals met criteria for confirmed COVID-19, yielding a vaccine effectiveness of 92%.

The BCG-vaccinated group also displayed protective effects against other infectious diseases, including fewer symptoms, lesser severity and fewer infectious disease events per patient. No BCG-related systemic adverse events occurred.

BCG’s broad-based infection protection suggests that, in addition to COVID-19, may potentially provide protection against new SARS-CoV-2 variants and other pathogens.

The researchers are hoping the results will spur a larger scale study of the effects of the BCG vaccine in patients with type 1 diabetes, considered among the most vulnerable groups to COVID-19.

The BCG vaccine is an avirulent tuberculosis strain Mycobacterium bovis historically given to protect against tuberculosis and, since its introduction in 1921, has been the most widely administered vaccine in the history of medicine.

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