Coronavirus outbreak: Doctors put their faith in BCG vaccine therapy

Updated: May 03, 2020, 08:06 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Haffkine Institute gets nod to conduct trials, to check effectiveness of anti-tuberculosis vaccine on COVID-19 patients

Apart from plasma therapy, COVID-19 patients who are in critical condition, will soon have another kind of treatment, to help fight the infection. Mumbai-based Haffkine Institute, which last month had submitted a proposal to conduct a clinical trial to use the anti-tuberculosis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, as a therapeutic treatment received a nod for it from the Drug Controller General of India on Friday.

Around 30 COVID-19 patients, who have moderate or severe symptoms, will be part of the trial run, starting next week. "The BCG vaccine strengthens immunity and research has shown that it can be used as a therapeutic treatment, to help patients fight the infection. We received an approval from the DGCI and are waiting for the clinical registration number from the ICMR, which should come in a couple of days," said a senior official from the Medical Education and Drugs (MED) department.

While the trial will be carried out by the Haffkine Institute and led by Dr Usha Padmanabhan, it is being monitored by the MED department.

Mumbai has the highest number of Coronavirus-related deaths in the state, as well as in India. The official added that once the trials are successful, patients who are critical, especially in cities like Mumbai and Pune, will be able to benefit from it. "Unlike new drugs, the BCG vaccine is already in production and will be easily available. So far, the institute has carried out preliminary studies and they have come across positive results," the official said.

Dr Rajesh Deshmukh, managing director of the Haffkine Institute in Parel, said that they are likely to start the trial next week. "It will take place at the BJ Medical College in Pune. We have carried out the preparations and the scientists are almost ready," he said.

Based on the preliminary findings of the research for the trial, the effect of the virus can be reduced among patients, if they are given a dose of the BCG vaccine. The official said that the vaccine will help reduce the severity of the symptoms among patients.

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