Could the TB vaccine delay the onset of MS?
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic diseases of the central nervous system which includes your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms can be mild to disabling and can vary from one person to another. Eventually, however, the disease progresses and leads to blurred vision, poor balance and coordination, problems with talking, tremors, fatigue, and paralysis.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes multiple sclerosis; it could be due to environmental factors, genetics, or something gone wrong with the person’s immune system – and unfortunately there is no cure.
However, researchers have discovered that the tuberculosis vaccine might help delay the onset of multiple sclerosis.
TB Vaccine for MS?
New research has found that the vaccine that prevents tuberculosis can have a positive effect on people who show early signs of multiple sclerosis. Researchers recruited 73 people that had early signs of multiple sclerosis, a clinically isolated syndrome, and were divided into two groups. One group received a live vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guérin which is used to prevent tuberculosis in some countries. The other group received a placebo – and both groups received a MS drug for a year.
After the first six months, the participants who received the tuberculosis vaccine had fewer MS-like lesions on their MRI scans compared to the participants in the placebo group. Five years later, and in the group that received the tuberculosis vaccine, 58 percent of participants had not developed multiple sclerosis. In the placebo group, only 30 percent of participants had not developed multiple sclerosis.
Although the tuberculosis vaccine seems to work in some patients, doctors aren’t sure why it works. One of the authors, Giovanni Ristori, M.D., Ph.D., of Sapienza University of Rome told HealthLine, “There seems to be complex multiple effects on brain inflammation. Other recent studies on BCG in autoimmunity point to a neuroprotective effect produced by cytokines that is especially induced by BCG.”
Supporting the Hygiene Hypothesis
The hygiene hypothesis suggests that people have become so clean (think overusing hand sanitizers, bleach wipes, and other forms of disinfecting) that this is suppressing the natural development of the immune system, which leads to diseases (auto-immune diseases and some allergies) where the infection-fighting cells begin attacking healthy tissues within the body.
According to Dennis Bourdette, MD, FAAN, FANA, who wrote the editorial in the journal of Neurology, the tuberculosis vaccine gives these infection-fighting cells a distraction of sorts. These infection-fighting cells turn their attention to fighting off the tuberculosis instead of attacking their own healthy cells.
Bourdette, chairman of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland told Blomberg, “The interesting thing was that the single injection affected the course of the recipients for up to five years after they received it.”
Multiple Sclerosis Rates
About 2.3 million people worldwide have multiple sclerosis, says the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Without a cure, any progress in treatment and delaying the disease is welcome news. However, researchers caution that this vaccine should not be used as a treatment for MS until further studies are conducted on the safety of the vaccine in people with MS.
Researchers stated that it maybe safer using a dead TB bacteria than using a live vaccine, or only duplicating parts of the vaccine for possibly a safer vaccine for those with MS. Either way, this could be great news for MS sufferers worldwide.