Treating Diabetes with a Tuberculosis Vaccine

A study published this summer in Nature Partner Journal Vaccines provides evidence that a tuberculosis vaccine, called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), may help lower blood sugar of patients with Type 1 diabetes. Lower blood sugar means less insulin needed for the diabetic, a drug that has become increasingly expensive.
In their study, researchers injected patients with Type 1 diabetes with two doses of BCG 4 weeks apart, observing 3 of them for 8 years and 9 for 5 years. In the 8-year group, they found that blood sugar levels dropped by 10% in the 3-year time frame after the injections and was sustained at that level for the remainder of the 8 years.

Though these results are profound, The American Diabetes Association and a nonprofit group that funds Type 1 diabetes issued a statement claiming that these results are not enough to support altering therapy methods yet. This is in part due to the considerably small cohort size; however, the researchers plan to use a much larger group of patients in the second phase of their clinical trial of BCG testing.

Director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, is very optimistic about the treatment, but is weary of getting diabetics’ hopes up too soon. Many other physicians have voiced their support of this method of treatment as well.

With insulin costs skyrocketing from $100-200 a month years ago to $400-500 a month now, many diabetics are cutting down on insulin use to save money. As a result, they are not managing their condition properly, and may suffer from poor health as a result. If 2 injections of the BCG vaccine can effectively lower blood sugar in patients over several years, at only $157 an injection, then diabetics may be able to significantly reduce their medical expenditure.

Sources: Nature Partner Journal Vaccines, CNN, Diabetes Self-Management