The Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Victoria, Australia, has announced a A$10 million grant ($6.4 million) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand a clinical trial of the BCG vaccine designed to evaluate its efficacy against COVID-19.
Launched at the Royal Children's Hospital, the BRACE trial (BCG vaccination to Reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Australian healthcare workers following Coronavirus Exposure) is investigating whether the BCG (bacille Calmette-Guerin) vaccine can protect healthcare workers who are exposed to SARS-CoV-2 from developing severe symptoms by boosting their frontline immunity. The study builds on previous research showing that BCG can provide some protection against respiratory viral infections, as well as a study in which BCG reduced virus levels and enhanced immunity to a virus with a structure similar to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Originally developed to protect against tuberculosis, BCG is still used to immunize more than a hundred and thirty million babies globally each year. The commitment from the foundation will enable researchers at MCRI to expand the trial to ten thousand healthcare workers in Australia, Spain, and the Netherlands.
"These sorts of trials normally take around eight to twelve months to start, but with the early support of philanthropy, we were able to start in record time, within three weeks,” said Nigel Curtis, head of MCRI's Infectious Diseases Research Group and head of infectious diseases at Royal Children's. "Since beginning the BRACE trial, we have been inundated with requests from other hospitals wanting to be involved, both in Australia and internationally. This funding will allow us to begin delivering on those requests.”
(Photo credit: MCRI)