TB, Polio Vaccines Could Boost Immunity to Covid

The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of human and animal virologists from 63 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 35 countries, suggested that  tuberculosis, measles, and polio vaccines could boost immunity to Covid 19.

In a perspective published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, the GVN said that Live Attenuated Vaccines (LAVs), such as those for tuberculosis, measles, and polio, may induce protective innate immunity that mitigate other infectious diseases, triggering the human body’s natural emergency response to infections including Covid 19 as well as future pandemic threats.


The scientists suggest that LAVs prospectively might offer a vital tool to bend the pandemic curve, averting the exhaustion of public health resources and preventing needless deaths, and merit being studied.

Co-Founder and Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of GVN Dr Robert Gallo said that induction of innate immunity by existing LAVs could protect against unrelated infections such as Covid. He said this based on a review of epidemiological, clinical and biological evidence.

Gallo is Homer and Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

He said that the above approach was worthy of prompt further study due to the probability of future pandemics. “This could be a stop-gap before specific vaccines are made.  But even in the current covid 19 pandemic they may be of use in non-affluent nations where the specific vaccines are not available,” he said.

“Our innate immune response is the first line of defense against invading, new pathogens. The outcome of any infection depends on the race between the pathogen and the host defense systems. The innate immunity and enhancing defense pathways provided by widely-used and well-recognized vaccines could substantially mitigate, or even prevent, infection from other pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2. This is especially valuable because LAVs can fill the gap until specific vaccines are available and in particular when they have not reached certain countries globally,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Dr Michael Avidan of the Department of Anesthesiology, Washington University, St Louis, said that  LAVs could be tested to determine whether they can control infection and disease progression in the absence or availability of pathogen-specific vaccines, particularly in the beginning phase of a pandemic.


Global Health Economist Dr Dean Jamison said “even in the case of a microorganism such as SARS-CoV-2, for which we have been able to develop vaccines fairly quickly, it is still a minimum of one and a half to two years until a safe and effective vaccine can be produced, tested, distributed, and delivered globally.”

Associate Director for Research for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Vaccines Research and Review Dr. Konstantin Chumakov opined that innate immunity stimulation has the potential to be used therapeutically in the early stages of disease, as well as to boost the effectiveness of vaccines that promote a specific adaptive immune response.


In 2014, a World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned review at the recommendation of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on vaccines (SAGE) concluded that LAVs reduced child mortality by more than expected.

Taking into account the huge toll that the pandemic has brought in, the authors said that one has to look into all possible options.

Dr Gallo also noted that the support to test LAVs for use during a pandemic was less when compared to the support and massive financial support to develop and deliver the novel specific vaccines.


The authors called on the governments, philanthropy and non-profit foundations to support testing of an LAV strategy to determine whether it can protect high-risk populations such as healthcare workers and the elderly as well as low-income populations worldwide.


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