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Researchers at McGill University Health Center have found that the old tuberculosis vaccine, BCG, protects against influenza A, indicating a broad spectrum of protection against viruses, including Covid-19. This finding could greatly affect future vaccine development.

Canada’s flu season has collided with record Strep A cases and is ongoing covid 19 concerns, new research is shedding light on our understanding of respiratory immune responses. Scientists from the McGill University Health Center (RI-MUHC) Research Institute have made a surprising discovery about the century-old tuberculosis vaccine, Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG).

The study was published in the journal Nature ImmunologyA previously unknown mechanism has been discovered that expands the vaccine’s shield to fight influenza A Virus– The most common type of flu.

Implications for vaccine development

“The immune interactions involved here can ‘train’ the lungs, which are repeatedly exposed to infectious agents in the environment. If we can identify the protective immune pathways involved in the lungs, this will improve our conceptual and clinical approach to developing immunological vaccines, including those against acute respiratory viruses,” said lead author Mazier Divangahi. Pulmonary immunologist, Senior Scientist of RI.-MUHC, and Professor of Medicine at McGill University.

The finding paves the way for future studies to assess whether BCG can be used to prevent other emerging viruses. In particular, research on the vaccine’s protection against Covid-19 has yielded promising results.

Reference: “BCG vaccination induces CX3CR1hi effector memory T cells to confer cross-protection through IFN-γ-mediated cultured immunity” by Kim A. Tran, Erwan Pernet, Mina Sadeghi, Jeffrey Downey, Julia Chronopoulos, Elizabeth Lapshina, Oscar Tsai, Eva Kaufman , Jun Ding and Maziar Divangahi, January 15, 2024; Nature Immunology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41590-023-01739-z