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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Tuberculosis Vaccine Helps Prevent Multiple Sclerosis in Study
By Elizabeth Lopatto December 04, 2013
People with early signs of multiple sclerosis who were treated with a vaccine used to prevent tuberculosis were less likely to get sick than patients who weren’t vaccinated, according to an early study.
Researchers recruited 73 people who had a first episode suggestive of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that can be difficult to diagnose. Five years later, almost 60 percent of those given the TB vaccine hadn’t developed multiple sclerosis compared with a third of the group that received a placebo instead, according to a study today in the journal Neurology.
The research supports the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests people have become so clean they suppress natural development of the immune system, leading to a surge in diseases in which these infection-fighting cells attack healthy tissue in the body, said Dennis Bourdette, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. The tuberculosis vaccine may wake the regulatory arm of the immune system, helping to steer the body’s killer cells away from the neurons it attacks in MS.
About 2.3 million people worldwide have multiple sclerosis, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a patient advocacy group. The disease destroys neurons when the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective coating on nerve fibers, disrupting the body’s communications. Eventually, this leads to blurred vision, poor balance and coordination, problems with speaking, tremors, fatigue and paralysis.
In the study, patients received either a Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine or a placebo. Both groups were given interferon, a standard MS treatment, for 12 months. After 18 months, patients took disease-modifying therapies as prescribed by their doctors. Fewer people who received the vaccine were diagnosed with MS and more of them didn’t have to take disease-modifying drugs than those in the control group, said the researchers led by Giovanni Ristori, from the Center for Experimental Neurological Therapies at the University of Rome.