December 5, 2013
Tuberculosis Vaccine Could Be Cure For MS
In the study, which was published in the journal Neurology, scientists found people who had early symptoms of MS and MRI scans pointing to the development of the neurological condition benefited from receiving an injection of Bacille Calmette-Guérin, which is used outside the US to prevent tuberculosis infection.
Multiple sclerosis is marked by damage to nerve cells in the central nervous system and the body’s own immune system is thought to be one potential culprit. Study researchers said their findings could support the so-called 'hygiene hypothesis' that says better sanitation and use of disinfectants may account for some of the higher rates immune system-related diseases in North America and Europe compared to rates in Africa, South America and parts of Asia.
"The theory is that exposure to certain infections early in life might reduce the risk of these diseases by inducing the body to develop a protective immunity,” Dr. Dennis Bourdette, from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, who wrote an accompanying editorial.
The study included 73 patients with clinically isolated syndrome – symptoms of which include numbness, vision problems or problems with balance, as well as MRI imagery showing possible signs of MS. Half of all patients with this syndrome develop MS within two years.
Thirty-three of the study participants received one injection of the live tuberculosis vaccine. The remaining 40 participants received a placebo. All of the participants agreed to have a brain scan conducted once a month for six months. After six months, participants received the MS drug interferon beta-1a for a year. After that year, participants took whatever MS drug was recommended by their neurologist. The researchers followed up on participants for a total of five years.
After the first six months, participants in the vaccine group had fewer brain lesions, which are signs of MS, than those in the placebo group, three lesions to seven lesions respectively. By the end of the study, 58 percent in the vaccine group had not developed MS, compared to 30 percent of the placebo group. The research team said there were no observable side effects associated with the vaccine.
"These results are promising, but much more research needs to be done to learn more about the safety and long-term effects of this live vaccine," said study author Dr. Giovanni Ristori, from the Sapienza University in Rome. "Doctors should not start using this vaccine to treat MS or clinically isolated syndrome."
While Caucasians of European descent have been thought to be more likely to contract MS, a study published earlier this year found that African-American women in particular are far more likely to contract the disease than white men and women. Both black and white men were seen having the same risk of being diagnosed with MS.
According to the study, which was also publish in Neurology, the previous theory on MS risk in African-Americans is based partially on a single study of disability payments given to Korean War veterans in the 1950s.