A cheap, generic tuberculosis vaccine lowered blood glucose levels in nine patients with Type I diabetes and the effects lasted for years, according to a study published this week in npj Vaccines.
The study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital by Dr. Denise Faustman – a name that has long been saddled with controversy in the diabetes community, due in large part to a dispute with the JDRF after the organization declined to fund her work.
The study was small. Nine people were given two doses of the vaccine and after several years, their blood sugar levels fell close to expected levels. All of the trial’s participants still use insulin and monitor their glucose, but they reported using less insulin and checking their blood sugar less frequently years after receiving the therapy.
Other researchers in the diabetes community expressed optimism over the study’s results but stressed that more data needs to be collected.
“If what they found is true, they really have something here,” Georgetown University’s Dr. Joseph Bellanti told STAT.
The vaccine, known as Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, works by boosting a patient’s T cells and by influencing the patient’s metabolism so cells gobble up glucose, according to data from preclinical mouse studies. Now, Faustman’s team is gearing up for a 150-patient Phase II study of the potential diabetes therapy.
The BCG vaccine is cheap – it costs less than $1 per dose, according to STAT. That’s part of the reason that it’s been challenging for her lab to attract funding, Faustman told the news outlet.
“Potential funders come [to my lab] and ask, ‘How can we make money off this?'” she said.