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Australian doctors, nurses to be given TB vaccine to fight off coronavirus

Health workers on the front line, tending coronavirus patients in Australia will be given a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine in a trial that could curb the spread of COVID-19.

Melbourne-based Murdoch Children’s Research Institute will be using the tuberculosis vaccine to counter the symptoms of coronavirus.

Lead researcher Nigel Curtis said the six-month trial will involve 4000 healthcare workers in Australia.

Half of the workers won’t be given the vaccine as researches hope to get some sign of its effectiveness in three months.

Besides combating tuberculosis, Professor Curtis said, the vaccine boosts the body’s immune system, reducing the symptoms of coronavirus.

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“It’s really the first time the vaccine has been used in this way,” he said.

“The vaccine has the ability to ‘train’ the immune system to respond more strongly to infection.”

He said healthcare workers were particularly vulnerable to infection, pointing to deaths of frontline workers overseas.

The Netherlands, Germany and the UK are also starting similar trials but the Austrian one is being dubbed one of the largest.

Prof Curtis said it was still important for countries to be developing a coronavirus vaccine.

“This has really alerted to the world that we are always just a few weeks away from a pandemic.'”

Read More: Trials of potential coronavirus treatments start for some existing drugs

“Even if we make a vaccine against this particular virus, if a different one pops up, it’s very good for us to have an off-the-shelf vaccine that works against the number of different viruses.”

People who had already had coronavirus or were unwell would be excluded from the trial, he said.

“If I didn’t think (the tuberculosis vaccine) would work, I wouldn’t have been here seven days a week for the last month with a team of 20 people,” he said.

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