Two Dutch universities are trying to determine whether a vaccine for tuberculosis would offer some added protection against the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
The university medical centre (UMC) at Nijmegen’s Radboud University and researchers at Utrecht University are looking into whether medical staff would be better protected against the coronavirus after being injected with the BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine.
While the vaccine does not protect against the virus, it could boost the immune system. Positive results could mean fewer and less severe infections, researchers emphasised.
Previous studies have shown that the vaccine can help to protect against the flu. However, it is still unclear whether it could work against other infections such as the new coronavirus. “This is precisely the aim of the research,” a professor from Radboud’s UMC explains.
In total, around 1,000 staff are taking part in the research. “Half will get the BCG vaccine, the other a placebo,” a professor from the Utrecht medical centre said. “If it is revealed that the vaccine really provides extra protection, we could offer it to the other employees.”
Radboud University’s UMC has now dedicated its entire Internal Medicine department to the treating of coronavirus patients, with non-infected patients being moved to other departments. A dedicated area has also been set up for people awaiting the results of their coronavirus tests.
Utrecht University is also working together with Rotterdam’s Erasmus MC and biotech company Harbour BioMed to develop an antibody that could slow down the new coronavirus.
As of 17 March, the Netherlands had 1413 confirmed coronavirus cases and 24 people have lost their lives to the virus according to the WHO’s latest report.