As work continues toward a Covid-19 vaccine, several existing drugs are being studied as possible treatments for the virus. Among them, the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, both of which have shown some promise in treating symptoms of Covid-19.
Now, another known drug is being tested on Covid-19, and this one is already a vaccine. It's the decades-old tuberculosis vaccine called bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG. Texas A&M researchers are launching human trials to determine if BCG can effectively treat symptoms of Covid-19, and---although not a cure---potentially prevent hospitalizations or deaths.
Dr. Jeffery Cirillo, Regents Professor at the A&M College of Medicine, is overseeing the trials on BCG. "This vaccine has been around for about 100 years, it's been used in about 400 million infants and children every single year," he says. "So it's a well-understood and well-studied vaccine that is extremely safe."
Dr. Cirillo tells KTRH BCG stimulates the body's immune system to fight off certain conditions. "And it's not just a strong response, it's a targeted response that is very much directed against the types of infections that we see with Covid-19," he says. "This vaccine already shows that it can reduce death and severe disease in other viral instances, so possibly it would do the same thing for Covid-19."
Researchers have also looked at the current use of BCG in other parts of the world. "It appears that in areas where they do vaccinations using this vaccine, they show a lower frequency of Covid-19 and lower death rate," says Dr. Cirillo.
The trials will involve 1,800 health care workers who will be monitored over the course of several months, with plans to expand it to other high-risk individuals if the first phase is successful.