Israeli scientists discover TB vaccine lowers rates of Alzheimer’s Disease in cancer patients

December 24, 2019 by TPS
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Alzheimer’s Disease affects one-in-ten adults over the age of 65, a number that is expected to triple by 2030, and scientists around the world are scrambling to a cure.

Prof. Ido Braslavsky’s ice research laboratory at the Hebrew University, Rehovot. Apr 23, 2017. Photo by Itzik Bellenitzki/TPS

A glimmer of hope recently emerged in the form of a research team, headed by Hervé Bercovier, Charles Greenblatt and Benjamin Klein at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, that has discovered that the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, originally developed for tuberculosis and commonly used to treat bladder cancer, may also be an effective treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s.

“There’s data reaching back to the 1960s that shows that countries treating bladder cancer patients with the BCG vaccine had a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, but it hadn’t been properly analyzed,” said Bercovier.

Bercovier and his team followed 1,371 bladder cancer patients receiving treatment at Hebrew U’s Hadassah Medical Center.  The average patient age was 68.  Some 65 cancer patients subsequently developed Alzheimer’s.  Those who had not received BCG as part of their treatment had a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than did BCG-treated patients:  8.9% (44 patients) as opposed to 2.4% (21).

Furthermore, when compared with the general population, people who had never been treated with BCG had a four-fold higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s than did those who were treated with BCG.

The researchers noted that they have not developed a vaccine that prevents Alzheimer’s.

However, their study “is an important step towards understanding the ways in which our immune system is a major player in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and how the BCG vaccine, which modulates the immune system, may serve as an effective preventative treatment to this crippling condition,” Bercovier explained.


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