• The vaccine is already in use in areas of the world for the treatment of TB

TB vaccine could 'cure' MS

Dec 05 2013 Read 1337 Times

A tuberculosis vaccine that is used in some areas of the world could be used to prevent the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). A new study has suggested that the vaccine could help to avoid the progression of the disease when given to those that are showing early signs of it. The study, published in the journal 'Neurology', shows that a medication that is already in use could help reduce the number of patients that develop MS.

MS is an incredibly difficult disease to diagnose and some doctors will attempt to rule out any other illness before finally diagnosing it, which can allow it to progress further. The most-often reported early symptoms are balance and vision problems, along with feelings of numbness. While Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used to diagnose MS, many doctors will wait for other symptoms to appear before recommending a scan.

According to researchers from the Sapienza University of Rome, 50 per cent of patients that present with these early symptoms are likely to develop MS within a period of two years. Only ten per cent of patients will not develop any other MS-related symptoms.

The study followed 73 individuals who had experienced one episode of symptoms related to MS. Of these participants, 33 participants were treated with an injection of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), while the rest were given a placebo. Each of the participants underwent a brain scan every month for a period of six months before going on to be treated with interferon beta-1a - a drug for the treatment of MS - for 12 months. If any further treatment was required, it was recommended by the participant's neurologist.

After following each of the individuals for five years, it was found that those who had been treated with BCG presented with fewer brain lesions, which are a characteristic of MS, when compared to the placebo group. On average, those treated with the vaccine had three lesions, while the average number amongst the placebo group was seven.

Of those who received a placebo, 70 per cent went on to develop MS, while only 43 per cent of the vaccinated group developed the disease. 

Although none of the individuals that received BCG experienced any adverse effects, the researchers have said more work needs to be done until the vaccine can be treated as a cure for MS.

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