Can BCG boosters check TB’s spread? ICMR to find out

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NEW DELHI: In a move that can be crucial in tuberculosis elimination, ICMR‘s apex TB research institute plans to start a BCG booster trial among kids and adolescents of 6-18 years to check whether re-vaccination can help prevent tuberculosis spread in household contacts of TB patients. The health ministry is likely to discuss funding proposal for the study on Tuesday.
“This is to assess whether re-vaccination with BCG vaccine can protect someone from developing TB when they are exposed to the disease. The study will be conducted in multiple sites in around eight centres with around 9,000 participants,” National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis director Dr Padmapriyadarsini C said.
The particpants of the trial will be monitored for around two years, she added.
While the scientific approvals are in place, the institute is waiting for the final approval for funding of the project from the department of health research under health ministry. Once the final go ahead is in place, the institute plans to start the study by August.
While BCG vaccine is one of the most used vaccines of the world to reduce the risks of natural tuberculous infection, the study assumes significance as it is yet to be established if BCG re-vaccination can help prevent TB disease in household contacts.
India witnessed a sharp 19% rise in tuberculosis cases in 2021 over the previous year, even as a huge majority of 64% of surveyed symptomatic population did not seek healthcare services between 2019 and 2021, the recently released India TB report 2022 and National TB Prevalence Survey shows.
A total of 19.3 lakh new and relapsed TB patients were notified in 2021, against 16.3 lakh in the previous year. Deaths due to TB also increased to 4.9 lakh, excluding HIV patients, in 2020, up 13% from a year ago, while the mortality rate due to all forms of TB between 2019 and 2020 rose by 11%.