The vaccine that helped wipe out the disease responsible for 110,000 deaths annually in the early 1900s could now be used to provide a cure for a new epidemic.
A Brief Timeline
Tuberculosis has been around since prehistoric times, and its scars have been found on Egyptian mummies and Indian texts from 3,300 years ago refer to the disease. In 1921, the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine was developed to protect infants against the disease by exposing them to a weakened strain of bacteria similar to the one responsible for the deadly disease.
While the vaccine has been discontinued in the United States as the risk of contracting TB has all but disappeared, scientists are finding that there may still be a use for it yet as a treatment for Type 1 Diabetes.
The Not-So-Modern Epidemic
Around 371 million people globally have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. While some sources claim that diabetes is a disease that came in with the modern era, records of the disease date back as far as 1500 BC. In type 1 diabetes (T1D), the pancreas is unable to produce enough or any insulin, a chemical needed by the body to convert carbohydrates into glucose for your body to store for later.
T1D sufferers have difficulty maintaining their blood sugar levels. If left without insulin shots, their blood sugar levels can rise to dangerously high levels, potentially inducing a diabetic coma.
Repurposing An Old Cure
Recently, doctors have discovered that the BCG vaccine helps T1D sufferers keep their blood sugar under control. After receiving a series of injections, test subjects found that their blood glucose levels were more easily maintained and remained at a steady level for up to five years without any dips below acceptable parameters.
By effectively turbo-charging the white blood cells into requiring more sugar, the bacteria in the BCG vaccine lowers the blood glucose level by upping the consumption rate of it by the body’s lymphocytes.