HIDDEN TREASURE: Century-old Vaccine Unearthed may offer a Cost-effective and Potent Defence Against Alzheimer’s Disease


A life-saving vaccine traditionally utilized in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) may soon play a role in diminishing the risk of dementia. The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, in use for over eight decades to safeguard children against the Victorian-era scourge, has shown promise in combatting various ailments beyond TB, including bladder cancer. Researchers have now identified its potential to alleviate brain inflammation, a precursor to dementia. With over 900,000 Britons afflicted by dementia, a figure projected to surpass a million by 2025, the prospect of leveraging this century-old vaccine offers hope, particularly against Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for the majority of dementia cases.

Presently, there exists no cure or method to decelerate the progression of the fatal disease, which gradually diminishes sufferers’ memory, cognitive abilities, and physical vitality.

In recent years, two novel drugs named lecanemab and donanemab have demonstrated remarkable success in impeding the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease. However, concerns regarding potential severe side effects have cast uncertainty on their approval and subsequent rollout by the NHS.

The revelation regarding the efficacy of the age-old BCG jab surfaced during a 2019 study that analyzed the health records of 1,371 individuals who either received or did not receive BCG as part of their bladder cancer treatment. Researchers from Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre in Jerusalem discovered that only 2.4% of patients administered with BCG developed Alzheimer’s over the ensuing eight years, compared to 8.9% of those who did not receive the vaccine.

Since the publication of these results several years ago, other research teams have corroborated the findings.

In 2023, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) conducted a study involving the medical records of approximately 6,500 bladder cancer patients. Over a 15-year period, scientists observed that individuals who had received the BCG vaccine were 20% less likely to develop dementia compared to those who had not been vaccinated.

Marc Weinberg, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, suggested that the vaccine could offer a cost-effective and efficient means of enhancing the immune system and guarding against this neurodegenerative condition. He conveyed to the Guardian, “The BCG vaccine is safe and widely accessible worldwide.”

“It unequivocally triumphs in the cost-effectiveness comparison.”

One hypothesis regarding BCG’s potential efficacy against Alzheimer’s is its ability to recondition the immune system.