world Tuberculosis vaccine is said to protect doctors and nurses...

Tuberculosis vaccine is said to protect doctors and nurses from corona

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At the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, the old active ingredient has now been upgraded using genetic engineering methods so that it could be even more effective. During this time, this message suffices that Grode’s phone is no longer at a standstill. VPM1002 is the name of the successor to the well-known vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), which was designed by the Berlin researchers and is the only vaccine against tuberculosis to date. BCG was developed by the French scientists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin in the 1920s and contains the weakened pathogen of bovine tuberculosis. It is administered to young children in countries where tuberculosis is rampant.

Cheap but controversial

The syringe is cheap, but controversial: BCG only protects against the worst forms of tuberculosis, in which bacteria affect the entire body. “In these children, the vaccine works the way science intended,” explains Stefan Kaufmann, who has now retired as director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, but has driven further development there. BCG pretends an infection and thus stimulates the immune system. Suitable immune cells are formed, which switch on as soon as an infection actually occurs. But BCG can obviously do more: it also upgrades the non-specific or the innate immune defense. These are the cells that the body sends on patrol without knowing which pathogen is threatening it. The effect was first noticed by the Danish epidemiologists Peter Aaby and Christine Stapel Benn; BCG apparently protects against many pathogens. “They observed that vaccinated children died less frequently after years than the unvaccinated,” says Kaufmann. The two were laughed at for a long time.

In 2014, however, the World Health Organization decided that there was probably an effect. Two years later, the British Medical Journal published a review certifying BCG and measles vaccination to have a general protective effect against infections. The double effect has now been experimentally confirmed and the immunologist Mihai Netea from the Radboud Universitair Medisch Center in Nijmegen believes that he has understood the mechanism behind this phenomenon. His team found that BCG can still be found in the skin of the vaccinated even months after the vaccination. There, he says, activate the innate defense. In Greece, he started studies with the elderly to protect them from serious infections such as influenza. Further studies should actually start in the Netherlands shortly. Then Corona came – and everything changed.

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