Australian infectious disease researchers are trialling a vaccine against COVID-19 on healthcare workers.
Professor Kathryn North, director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), today announced the multi-centre randomised controlled clinical trial of a tuberculosis vaccine to test whether it can lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
While the BCG vaccine was originally developed and is still used to protect babies against tuberculosis, the team said BCG also boosts humans’ ‘frontline’ immunity, training it to respond to germs with greater intensity.
BCG is administered to over 130 million infants worldwide each year to prevent tuberculosis. Routine administration was discontinued in Australia in the 1980s and its use among healthcare workers is no longer recommended as the primary means of protection against tuberculosis.
The researchers will enrol 4000 healthcare workers from hospitals around Australia to test its effectiveness against COVID-19 symptoms. The first test site announced is The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. More sites are expected to be announced in coming days.
Study lead Professor Nigel Curtis, a clinician-scientist who leads MCRI’s Infectious Diseases Research Group, said the team needs to enrol workers in the coming weeks. “The clock is definitely ticking."
Previous studies showed that BCG reduces the level of virus when people are infected with similar viruses to SARS-CoV-2.
Curtis said: “We hope to see a reduction in the prevalence and severity of COVID-19 symptoms in healthcare workers receiving the BCG vaccination."
The researchers hope this improved ‘innate’ immunity will provide time to develop and validate a specific anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.
North said the Federal and State Health Departments, together with Australian and international philanthropists, have shown a willingness and capacity to step up to fund a number of COVID-19 related trials.
“Using rapidly sourced and immediately deployable funds, we will be relentless in our pursuit of preventions and treatments for this unprecedented pandemic," she said.
"These trials will allow the rapid advancement of the most promising candidates to clinical practice, giving us the most number of shots on goal against COVID-19 as possible.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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