Vaccine may prevent multiple sclerosis

New study: Vaccine typically used to prevent tuberculosis my help prevent MS

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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A new Italian study finds a vaccine, typically used to prevent tuberculosis, may also help prevent multiple sclerosis.

"The rationale is that you give a vaccination which typically protects you against an infection like tuberculosis to MS patients and what that does is we think that it fiddles with the immune system. We think that it kind of shunts the immune system away from producing damage in MS and kind of becomes worried about what you're vaccinating against," said Dr. Daniel Ontaneda, who did not take part in the study but treats multiple sclerosis patients at Cleveland Clinic.

Researchers at Sapienza University in Rome studied the effects of the tuberculosis vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG.

They split 73 people, who had a first episode that was suggestive of ms, into two groups.  33 of them got the vaccine.

Results show that after six months, those who received the vaccine had fewer brain lesions that are signs of MS.  By the end of the study, 58 percent of the vaccinated people had not developed MS, compared to 30 percent of those who did not get the vaccine.

"The advantage of a therapy like BCG would be that one it is relatively cheap. Two, at least as it was studied, it was a single injection only, and then three that there were no significant side-effects associated with it,"explained Ontaneda.

Ontaneda agrees with researchers who say the results are promising, but more studies are needed. Complete findings for this study can be found in the online issue of the journal Neurology.

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