Bulgaria looks forward to know if the traditional tb vaccine can also protect the COVID-19 : the country hopes to open new opportunities for millions of doses of BCG are that it produces each year.
Several studies across the world, in Australia, in South Africa, in Europe or in the United States, are underway to test the hypothesis of effect shield that would provide this vaccine centenary in the face of the new coronavirus.
“It’s been known for decades that BCG has beneficial non-specific “, that is to say that it protects against diseases other than that for which it was created, tuberculosis, explained in April, the AFP’s Camille Locht, research director at Inserm at the Institut Pasteur of Lille.
This avenue of research is of interest to the Bulgaria double title : the countries of the Balkans is a major manufacturer of anti-tuberculosis vaccine ; it is also one of the States that has maintained the compulsory vaccination of all infants when many countries have abandoned in favor of a prescription targeted.
In the month of April, the Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov has booked a long visit to the company Bul Bio, a public laboratory that produces several vaccines, including the famous BCG, exported to 140 countries.
Building on an increase of the international demand, it has announced a funding of $ 10.4 million leva (nearly 8 millions of canadian dollars) for a new manufacturing line that will allow the company, based in Sofia, to double its annual production of the BCG, causing it to increase to 4 million bulbs, which correspond to 40 million doses.
“Because of its low profitability and its production process complex, there is a real tension in the supply of this vaccine on a global scale,” says AFP Rumen Kofinov, director of Bul Bio. His laboratory is one of the 22 manufacturers of BCG in the world, according to a scientific study of international published in 2018, which lists only three manufacturers in the EU.
Bulgaria is one of four suppliers selected by the WHO-with India, Japan and Denmark – to produce the BCG campaigns antituberculose Nations in Africa and Asia. Bul Bio holds 20% of this market, according to Mr. Kofinov.
A reputation that builds on a long history : developed by two French researchers, Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin in 1921, the BCG has given birth to several stem side, including the delivery by Calmette at the Bulgarian professor Tochko Petrov in 1926, for testing purposes.
The production of the BCG Bulgarian has really started in 1949 in a laboratory in Sofia, the predecessor of the current Bul Bio.
Mandatory for new-born Bulgarian as early as 1951, the vaccination against tuberculosis has allowed to divide by ten the number of cases in thirty years. But the prevalence of the disease still remains two times higher than the european average in this, the poorest country in the EU.
For this reason, the BCG vaccine remains routine for all infants, whereas many western countries, like France since 2007, now limited to populations and occupations that are more exposed. Countries such as Italy or the netherlands have never resorted to vaccination against tuberculosis widespread.
“We are the country with the largest BCG-ised in the world,” with four injections mandatory before the age of adulthood, says professor Todor Kantardjiev, director of the Institute of infectious diseases in Sofia.
“The OCG generates a powerful immune-stimulating “, says the Bulgarian professor of immunology Bogdan Petrounov.
However, in the waiting for a treatment or a vaccine specific to the novel coronavirus, ” it is on the immunity that it should build “, he insists.
With the OCG, “the effect of the bacterial or viral infections is attenuated,” says Dr. Valentina Guerguinova, a neonatal specialist from Sofia, who vaccinate infants for thirty years.
The scientific community is still very conservative on the power of protection of BCG against COVID-19. WHO recalled the April 12, that no studies had provided proof.
But Bulgaria would like to believe that the vaccine has protected its population from the shock of the epidemic : entered in containment as early as mid-march, with very few cases detected, the country has only experienced a limited spread of the virus with 2460 contamination and 133 deaths at this stage.