Tuberculosis and Polio: Offer old vaccines provide indirect protection against Covid-19?

Worldwide intensive research is being conducted for a vaccine to specifically protect against the Coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 – the Federal government is also involved now with 300 million euros to a manufacturer, is looking for a vaccine against the Coronavirus. Until there is, could potentially offer the existing live vaccines, a certain level of protection against infection, researchers believe. Because live vaccines, the function is enabled, but attenuated pathogens, to trigger a robust response from the immune system.

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“Previous studies were able to provide evidence that these vaccines can have an effect on their pathogen-specific effects, and protection against other diseases increase,” write the experts, Melanie Brinkmann, Eva Kaufmann, and Thomas Mertens in a joint response to a request from the German press Agency. Such stimulation causes long-lasting changes in immune cells or their precursor cells, which led to an increased readiness to function of the body’s immune system, stresses the Immunologist Eva Kaufmann from McGill University in Montreal.

“Speaking very generally, there are from epidemiological studies evidence that live vaccines, when to also offer a small percentage, a “cross-protection” against non-related pathogens could,” confirmed the President of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute (PEI), Klaus Cichutek. These studies were, however, no evidence for such protection, he says. Recommendations for the use of an already approved live vaccine against the Coronavirus, “would require, in any case, first of all, relevant, compelling data and, in particular, to the effectiveness against Covid-19”. Such data are not available to the knowledge of the PEI is currently the world’s.

Studies with the tuberculosis vaccine

Melanie Brinkmann of Braunschweig-based Helmholtz center for infection research (HZI) refers to evidence that the tuberculosis BCG vaccine can protect against viral infections in humans. Whether this is also a certain degree of protection against infection with Sars-CoV-2 mediate, is immune response not yet known. “It is important to investigate this in clinical studies,” emphasizes the Virologist. According to PEI information two clinical trials are currently examining such an effect of the relatively new and already on its safety investigated BCG vaccine VPM 1002, in certain at-risk groups. Results are expected in the next year.

In the journal “Science” is an international team of researchers in a contribution to the discussion also on the question of whether live vaccines could offer protection against Covid-19. These researchers Konstantin Chumakov of the US food and drug administration FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to make a study, in particular to the effectiveness of the – well-known of the polio vaccine – to examine the oral Polio vaccine OPV against the Coronavirus.

The use of old vaccines must be carefully tested

In the 1950s, developed the vaccine have shown pathogens in earlier studies also, a degree of protection against other viruses such as the Flu, the researchers write. “If the results of the studies with OPV are positive, OPV can be used to protect the most vulnerable populations.”

The virologist Thomas Mertens of the University hospital of Ulm, Chairman of the Standing Committee on vaccination (STIKO) at the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI), sees this proposal, however, is skeptical: A world-wide use of OPV vaccine against Sars-CoV-2 was “hard to imagine” – primarily to avoid possible infection with pathogens derived from such Viruses,.

The current strategy of the world health organization (WHO) see, to stop all OPV vaccinations, and to use instead, for the eradication of the Poliovirus type 1 – the only remaining Polio-wild pathogen – Totimpfungen. “A vaccination with OPV inevitable re-release of Polio Vaccines appears to be highly questionable,” stressed Mertens.

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