Tuberculosis Vaccine May Also Help Ward Off Multiple Sclerosis
    By News Staff | December 4th 2013 04:27 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    The live vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guérin, used in some parts of the world to prevent tuberculosis, may help prevent multiple sclerosis (MS) in people who show the beginning signs of the disease, according to a new study in Neurology.  

    The study involved 73 people who had a first episode that was suggestive of MS, such as numbness, vision problems or problems with balance, and an MRI that showed signs of possible MS. About half of all people in this situation, called clinically isolated syndrome, develop definite MS within two years, while 10 percent have no more MS-related problems. 33 of the participants received one injection of Bacille Calmette-Guérin, which is not used as a tuberculosis vaccine in the US, the other participants received a placebo.

    All of the participants had brain scans once a month for six months. They then received the MS drug interferon beta-1a for a year. After that, they took the MS drug recommended by their neurologist. The development of definite MS was evaluated for five years after the start of the study. 

    After the first six months, the people who received the vaccine had fewer brain lesions that are signs of MS than those who received the placebo, with three lesions for the vaccinated and seven lesions for the unvaccinated.

    By the end of the study, 58 percent of the vaccinated people had not developed MS, compared to 30 percent of those who received the placebo.

    There were no major side effects during the study. There was no difference in side effects between those who received the vaccine and those who didn't.

    "These results are promising, but much more research needs to be done to learn more about the safety and long-term effects of this live vaccine," said study author Giovanni Ristori, MD, PhD, of Sapienza University of Rome in Italy. "Doctors should not start using this vaccine to treat MS or clinically isolated syndrome."

    The results provide support to the "hygiene hypothesis" that better sanitation and use of disinfectants and antibiotics may account for some of the increased rate of MS and other immune system diseases in North America and much of Europe compared with Africa, South America and parts of Asia, according to Dennis Bourdette, MD, of Oregon Health&Science University in Portland and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, who wrote an accompanying editorial. "The theory is that exposure to certain infections early in life might reduce the risk of these diseases by inducing the body to develop a protective immunity."

    Published in Neurology. Source: American Academy of Neurology


    I can't imagine why the researcher said doctors shouldn't start using this vaccine against MS. Is he just trying to avoid lawsuits? Let's see, within 5 years it drops the risk of full blown MS from 70% to 42%, and none of the 33 people he gave it to had any side effects. Are we to assume the tiny risk from the vaccine outweighs the additional 28% risk of MS? If they can find something better or safer or more effective, by all means go for it, but to have results like this available and take no action would border on malpractice. I would use it every time.

    I have lived in Scotland virtually all my life. Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with lots of theories why this might be - diet, sunlight (lack of, due to northerly latitude), lack of vitamin D, inherited traits, etc.
    I still bear the scar on my left arm from receiving BCG vaccination at high school against TB, as did many at my school. I think this vaccine policy extended across Scotland, if not the whole UK, thru the 1960s.

    Could an epidemiological study of residents of Scotland with symptoms of MS and with or without BCG vaccination help to support (or otherwise) the thesis advanced in this article? There would, of course, be many confounding factors to control for, but a large sample size could be identified.