#156 BCG vaccine trial for healthcare workers


17 April 2020

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) is vaccinating healthcare workers as part of a multi-centre randomised clinical trial of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19.

The BRACE trial will involve 4000 medical workers in hospitals across Australia, half of whom will be given the BCG vaccine.

The BCG vaccine is designed to protect against tuberculosis. However, it also boosts immunity to protect against other infections. Some studies have shown that people who have had a BCG vaccine have fewer viral respiratory tract infections than those who haven’t. Other studies have shown that people who have had a BCG vaccine and then get a virus, have lower virus levels in their blood than those who haven’t had a BCG vaccine. 

The purpose of this World Health Organization-approved study is to find out whether BCG vaccination protects against COVID-19 or reduces severity of COVID-19 in Australian healthcare workers. Half of the people in the study will be randomly allocated to receive the BCG vaccine and half will not receive the vaccine. Everyone will have a blood test taken and be followed-up for six months.

The researchers hope to show that improving ‘innate’ immunity of frontline healthcare workers will provide crucial time to develop and importantly, validate, a specific anti-COVID-19 vaccine.

Led by Professor Nigel Curtis, a clinician-scientist who leads MCRI’s Infectious Diseases Research Group, the BRACE trial builds on previous studies which showed that BCG reduces the viral load, and lessens their symptoms, when people are infected with respiratory viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. 

“Since beginning the BRACE trial we have been inundated with requests from other hospitals wanting to get involved, both in Australia and internationally,” Prof Curtis said.

Healthcare workers from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Epworth Richmond and Monash have already enlisted in the study.

Doctors can find more information about the BRACE study on the MCRI website - www.mcri.edu.au/BRACE

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