SA’s BCG booster trials seek low-cost weapon against virus

Researchers expect preliminary results within six months in the year-long trial.

20 May 2020 | Business

Perhaps it works, perhaps it doesn't, but it's definitely worth trying. – Prof Andreas Diacon, Founder: TASK

Wendell Roelf - The idea of testing the BCG vaccine in Africa against Covid-19 was bound to cause controversy, yet officials say efforts underway could, if successful, give the continent a cheap and easily deployable weapon against the virus.

South African biotech group TASK this month started the continent's first trial to see whether 250 high-risk workers given a booster dose of BCG vaccine show better protection against Covid-19 than the same number given a placebo.

Three thousand health workers are eventually expected to be involved in the trial overall. Researchers expect preliminary results within six months in the year-long trial.

Tests to see if the century-old Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, widely used in Africa for tuberculosis, protects against the new coronavirus have also begun in the Netherlands and Australia.

But unlike those countries, where BCG vaccinations at birth aren't the norm, South Africa's trial involves injecting people for a second time. BCG injections are mandatory at birth in South Africa, where TB is a leading killer.

"We are trying to see if ... reminding the immune system of that vaccine will make a difference," said Andreas Diacon, a professor at Stellenbosch University's medical school who founded TASK in 2005 to hunt for novelty medicines and vaccines.

"Perhaps it works, perhaps it doesn't, but it's definitely worth trying ... [because] we just need to know if it can help us through this Covid-19 crisis," he told Reuters at TASK's high-security mycobacteriology laboratory.

Alarm bells

Trying out a new medical intervention in Africa always rings alarm bells because of an unfortunate history of big pharmaceutical companies using Africans as guinea pigs.

So when a French doctor last month suggested that the BCG should also be tested in Africa as a possible shield against Covid-19, it provoked a predictable social media backlash.

Yet the vaccine is widely regarded as safe, and officials involved in the trial at Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town point out that it is so readily available in Africa and the developing world that poor countries with limited health resources could benefit massively from the discovery that the jab is effective.

"If you look at BCG as a potentially cheap and available tool that African countries could afford ... it does make sense," Diacon said. "The results will be relevant for ... parts of the world that do not have access to first world medicine."

Possible epicentre

The World Health Organisation has warned that the next epicentre of the pandemic could very well be Africa, where measures to contain it are harder to implement and health services much more likely to be overwhelmed than in the West.

Across Africa, there is less than one intensive care bed and one ventilator per 100 000 people, a Reuters survey found. The continent has around 85 329 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2 784 deaths, compared with 300 000 worldwide since the virus emerged from China late last year.

There is no known cure for Covid-19 and scientists worldwide are scrambling for vaccine candidates.

"Our experts have ensured stringent ... criteria for trial participants, as well as all the requisite safety and efficacy monitoring measures during the trial," said a spokesman for the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. – Nampa/Reuters

Similar News

 

Company News In Breif

1 day - 02 June 2020 | Business

London Metal Exchange cancels events The London Metal Exchange (LME) said on Monday it cancelled all of its events during the LME Week in London...

De Beers to shift diamond viewings from Botswana

2 days ago - 01 June 2020 | Business

Brian Benza - Global diamond giant, De Beers is working with Botswana's government to temporarily move viewings to places closer to international diamond centres, with...

Alrosa expects big drop in May sales

2 days ago - 01 June 2020 | Business

Polina Devitt - Russian diamond producer Alrosa expects its sales for May to total tens of million US dollars, down sharply from May 2019 but...

MTC most admired brand in Nam

2 days ago - 01 June 2020 | Business

Phillepus Uusiku - Massive investment, consistency, accessibility and giving clients an exceptional experience are some of the most important tools in transforming a product or...

The struggles of a small airline during coronavirus

2 days ago - 01 June 2020 | Business

Anne-Sophie Faivre le Cadre - Launching an airline in Africa is a notorious challenge in a continent and sector where opportunities are often crimped by...

Company news in brief

2 days ago - 01 June 2020 | Business

BAT SA to file lawsuitA raft of South African tobacco companies, activists and associations are seeking legal action over the ban on cigarette sales during...

Sea Flower Walvis Bay to employ 450

5 days ago - 29 May 2020 | Business

Staff Reporter - Sea Flower Pelagic Processing is forging ahead with its planned commissioning of a canning factory at their land-based processing plant in Walvis...

Company news in brief

5 days ago - 29 May 2020 | Business

‘SAA can still be saved with funding’South African Airways (SAA) can still be saved if it gets the necessary funding, the state-owned airline's administrators said,...

Zim gold miners get more export earnings in dollars

6 days ago - 28 May 2020 | Business

Zimbabwe will increase the proportion of US dollars gold miners can keep from their sales, the central bank's bullion-buying arm said yesterday, yielding to pressure...

Company news in brief

6 days ago - 28 May 2020 | Business

Woolworths’ coronavirus hit deepensSouth African retailer Woolworths yesterday scrapped its 2020 dividend and left a question mark over future payouts, with difficult trading conditions created...

Latest News

Over 120 lose jobs at...

4 hours ago | Labour

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDUAbout 120 people lost their jobs yesterday after a fallout between Chinese-born business magnate Stina Wu and a subcontractor that labour inspectors found to...

The contest for hearts and...

4 hours ago | Opinion

Nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight, when everything remains seemingly unchanged.The above quote by...

Indemnity forms a matter of...

4 hours ago | Education

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKWith some learners expected to return to schools today, education ministry executive director Sanet Steenkamp says parents will have to trust that schools have...

Rastafarian sues for N$1.4m

4 hours ago | Justice

JANA-MARI SMITHWINDHOEKA convict serving 35 years for murdering his girlfriend is suing prison authorities for N$1.4 million for cutting his hair.Petrus Fridel Frederik claims his...

No new stimulus package for...

4 hours ago | Health

STAFF REPORTERWINDHOEKGovernment will not offer new emergency income grants for residents of Walvis Bay whose town is back on lockdown for seven days after recording...

No statistics on Angolan learners...

4 hours ago | Education

ILENI NANDJATOEENHANAThe Ohangwena directorate of education is struggling to establish how many Angolan children attend school in the region.Regional education director Isak Hamatwi says the...

Herd rebuilding affects slaughtering

4 hours ago | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEK Livestock producers have started rebuilding their herds after the drought, and for that reason, the number of...

Exploring sustainable use of biomass

4 hours ago | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER WINDHOEK Biomass from Namibian encroacher bush could be turned into a valuable and climate-friendly export product. ...

Covid-19 cases remain at 25

4 hours ago | Health

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKThe total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Namibia has remained steady at 25, according to deputy health minister Esther Muinjangue, who gave an...

Load More