WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A small trial of a vaccine already approved for tuberculosis found that the vaccine can kill the rogue autoimmune cells that are active players in type 1 diabetes.
There were no changes, however, in the need for insulin among those with longstanding diabetes who got the vaccine, the researchers added.
"What we saw with two vaccines, given four weeks apart, was the death of bad T-cells," said study author Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the immunobiology laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "We also saw that regulatory T-cells came on -- these are the good-guy T-cells. And the pancreas went on briefly, and this was in people who were 15 years out from their type 1 diagnosis."
"This doesn't mean that people were throwing their insulin syringes away," Faustman said. "But the exciting part is that even decades after the disease begins, the cells in the pancreas can kick in again."
Results of the study appear online Aug. 8 in the journal PLOS One.
The vaccine, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is called bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), and has been used against tuberculosis for about 90 years, Faustman said. BCG also is used as a treatment for bladder cancer.
The vaccine works by increasing levels of a substance known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF). High doses of TNF can be toxic, but the vaccine doesn't appear to raise levels of TNF too high.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only groups that shouldn't receive the live vaccine are those whose immune systems are compromised, such as people who have HIV or people who have received an organ transplant. The CDC also recommends against giving the vaccine to pregnant women because it hasn't been well-studied in this population.
In 2001, Faustman's team tested a similar substance
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