Multiple Sclerosis

Study: TB Vaccine May Work Against Multiple Sclerosis

A medication commonly used to treat tuberculosis could keep MS from developing fully

A vaccine used to fight tuberculosis might keep people who show early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) from developing the full-blown disease, according to a small study from the University of Rome.
“It is possible that a safe, handy and cheap approach will be available immediately following the first [episode of symptoms suggesting MS],” said study lead author Giovanni Ristori, M.D., of the Center for Experimental Neurological Therapies at Sant’Andrea Hospital in Rome.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, followed 73 people who exhibited early signs of MS. Thirty-three received Bacille Calmette-Guerin, the tuberculosis vaccine. The other 40 were given a placebo injection. All participants had monthly MRI scans of their brains for six months to look for brain lesions associated with MS. For the next year, they received interferon beta-1a, a drug routinely given to people with MS, followed by whatever treatment their own neurologists recommended.
Five years after the study, 42 percent of participants who received the tuberculosis vaccine had developed MS, compared to 70 percent of those who were given the placebo.
Researchers aren’t certain how the vaccine protects against MS, though they suspect it decreases the immune system’s ability to attack the brain. And though no major side effects were reported during the study, larger trials are needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of this approach. It should also be noted that while Bacille Calmette-Guerin is commonly used in other countries, it currently is not approved for preventing tuberculosis in the United States.

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