Claims about a Vaccine Against Diabetes
WHAT IS THE TRENDING NEWS STORY
An online article published on September 11, 2016 mentions that the bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, used in preventing tuberculosis, has shown promise in reversing type 1 diabetes. An announcement made at the 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association said that the FDA will test the vaccine on 150 people who are in an advanced stage of type 1 diabetes. They also state that in a previous trial, patients were injected with the tuberculosis vaccine twice within a four-week time frame. The results showed that the dangerous T cells (that caused damage to the pancreas) were gone, and some people even began to secrete insulin on their own.
WHY THE STORY HAS MISINFORMATION
"The Vaccine Against Diabetes Has Been Officially Announced And The Entire World Is Celebrating The News!" is misleading and inappropriate. The BCG vaccine has only passed phase 1 clinical trials regarding its efficacy to prevent type 1 diabetes. This phase is where animal studies are conducted and are far from adequate enough to warrant a headline like the one in the article; it implies that human use has been approved which is not true. Currently, participants are being recruited for phase 2 of the study, with the whole project expected to be completed by July 2023.
Also, the statement made that the BCG vaccine was used over a 100 years ago is not true. The BCG vaccine is still being used in developing countries to help prevent the development of tuberculosis. The author may have meant that the vaccine has been used to prevent tuberculosis for the last 100 year, in which case this would be a true statement.
It is further mentioned in the article that the FDA will test the vaccine, however, this is a misinformation as the FDA will not conduct the study themselves. What this organization has done is give approval for a mid-stage trial to test the vaccine in 150 adults with advanced cases of the disease.
The article continues with information regarding a previous trial, where patients were injected with the tuberculosis vaccine twice within a four-week time frame. The results showed that the dangerous T cells were gone, and some people even began to secrete insulin on their own. No citation is given for the study, and no such study is found when researched.
Another issue is that the article itself mentions that the Diabetes Care Journal published results of a previous study, which analyzed the effects of BCG on patients with diabetes between the ages of 5 and 18, where the results showed that the BCG vaccine doesn’t preserve beta-cell function or raise the remission rate in these children. This would contradict the article's initial statement as the information states that the BCG vaccine has not been proven to benefit children with type 1 diabetes.
The fact of the matter is that if the BCG vaccine is the cure for type 1 diabetes, then everyone who has previously received it should not be suffering from the condition. Unfortunately, many people have received the vaccine and still went on to develop type 1 diabetes.
In 1997, research was conducted in Canada using two large groups of children where one received the BCG vaccine and the other did not, and a comparison was made to see who would develop type 1 diabetes and who did not. The results yielded that the group of children who received the BCG vaccine had a lower incidence of type 1 diabetes and that the diagnosis was made earlier, as compared to the group that had not been vaccinated. This suggests that the vaccine causes a temporary boost in immunity, which slows down the onset of type 1 diabetes, but the analysis of the results failed to support a protective role against the development of the condition in children. A similar Swedish study yielded the same outcomes regarding the BCG vaccine.
A 2005 study was conducted in Germany where children who had received the BCG vaccine were compared to those who had not. The results yielded no difference in the incidence rate of type 1 diabetes among the two groups; therefore the suggestion is that the BCG vaccine should not be used to prevent type 1 diabetes. In fact, the study suggests that the BCG vaccine may accelerate the progression of the disease (NOT cause it), in those who are prone to develop it, because the vaccine has strong immunostimulatory properties. Ironically, it has been suggested that early stimulation of the immune system can help prevent the development of antibodies which end up damaging the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas. It’s important to take note though that the number of patients who did progress to type 1 diabetes was small, so that should be considered a potential limitation.
Basically, all the information regarding the effects of the BCG vaccine on type 1 diabetes are only substantiated with the phase 1 results of Dr. Denise Faustman, and further stronger scientific evidence is needed to confirm any efficacy in humans.
- FDA approves mid-stage trial of vaccine to reverse type 1 diabetes. Reuters.