11/04/2020

A trial to test if an established tuberculosis vaccine may reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms will recieve $200,000 in state funding.

The state government will inject $200,000 into the trial which could provide invaluable evidence in both the current fight against COVID-19 and future responses to novel viral outbreaks.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said that about 500 hospital staff will be invited to take part in a clinical trial to test if an established tuberculosis vaccine may provide an immune system boost that reduces the prevalence or severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

“It is very exciting that this existing vaccine could make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of our hospital staff on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19,” Minister Wade said.

“The nature of their work means healthcare workers are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, so it is important that they are first to be able to access this potentially protective intervention.”

“We have some of the best scientists in the world. Through their hard work and by community-wide action to slow the spread of infection, South Australians are doing more than just enduring this nasty disease.

“We are fighting back and we will defeat it together.”

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) will partner with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) to roll-out the trial – which has the backing of World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom – in South Australia.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is exploring every opportunity to provide the best possible protection for our healthcare workforce and our community at large from the scourge of COVID-19,” Minister Wade said.

“That’s why we’re financially backing this research to enable our frontline COVID-19 hospitals to participate in the cutting-edge BRACE trial.”

SAHMRI’s Executive Director, Professor Steve Wesselingh, said his institute has been researching the off-target effects of the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine for some time.

“BCG was designed to protect against tuberculosis and is currently a common treatment for bladder cancer patients but has also been shown to boost immunity against other infections,” Professor Wesselingh said.

“Trial participants, who will be randomly allocated to either receive the vaccine or be in a control group, will be monitored for symptoms and receive testing where indicated.

“The trial will provide key evidence that could prove invaluable in both the current fight against COVID-19 and future novel viral outbreaks.”

Although originally developed against tuberculosis, BCG also boosts humans’ ‘frontline’ immunity, training it to respond to germs with greater intensity.

For more information on the BRACE trial, visit SAHMRI’s website at www.sahmri.org/BRACE.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in South Australia, visit the SA Health website at www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/COVID2019 or phone the SA COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787.