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If BCG Cures Diabetes Then Does No BCG Cause Diabetes?

We have, as we know, an epidemic of diabetes these days. Swathes of the population are blowing up like balloons, limbs falling off gangrenous and eyeballs failing as the modern diet and obesity kill us all. Thus sugar taxes, no advertising of junk food and, in one recent argument, no free trade with the Americans.

Hmm, well, that is interesting. Because there’s a recent finding that the BCG vaccine, the one against tuberculosis, is a reasonable enough cure for Type 1 diabetes, and might well be useful against Type 2 as well. Which does lead to a very interesting speculation. We stopped giving the BCG routinely in 2005. The rise in diabetes is recent. Are these two connected?

The BCG vaccine against tuberculosis can reverse Type 1 diabetes to almost undetectable levels, an eight-year study has shown.

US researchers found that just one jab, followed by a booster four weeks later, brought down average blood sugar levels to near normal within three years, and the effect lasted for the following five years.

British experts hailed the results as “very exciting” adding that if the simple and safe vaccination had a similar impact in larger trials it would be a “major advance” in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

This is interesting, isn’t it?

But the new study suggests that just two injections of BCG could virtually cure the condition for many years at a time.

No, very. For here’s something else:

The BCG vaccine (which stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine) is not given as part of the routine NHS vaccination schedule. It’s given on the NHS only when a child or adult is thought to have an increased risk of coming into contact with TB.

This is a significant change from the recent past:

Schoolchildren will no longer be immunised against tuberculosis after public health experts decided the vaccination programme has little impact on control of the disease, the government said today.

The chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, announced that the £10m vaccination programme, offered to all children aged 10-14, is to be dropped because schoolchildren are at lowest risk of contracting tuberculosis (TB).

That was in 2005. Those 10 year olds are now 23 or so. Oh, and:

Used for almost a century to prevent tuberculosis, the BCG vaccine helps boost and regulate the immune system. The team also discovered that the jab speeds up the rate by which cells convert glucose into energy and tests on mice show that it could also be beneficial against Type 2 diabetes.

You’re absolutely correct, I have no medical training at all. I’m also unaware of whether the rise in diabetes is concentrated among the young or not, although that’s probably something easy enough to look up. But it is still an interesting thought, isn’t it?

For BCG apparently cures diabetes. We used to routinely dose the population with it, we no longer do, we’ve a rise in diabetes. Well, that chain of logic at least needs examination, doesn’t it? For imagine if there’s even a little truth to it. Most of those – already threadbare – justifications for sugar taxes, no junk food advertising and the horrors of free trade with Americans rather fall away, don’t they?

The most obvious way of doing a crude test being to see whether the diabetes incidence change accords with the dates that other countries, if any have, stopped routine BCG.

Not that finding out will stop people like Action on Sugar but it might lead to the rest of us knowing that we can ignore them. BTW, did you recall that the Prime Minister is a Type 1 diabetic? There might even be the political will to find out, eh?

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Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
5 years ago

Anybody of an age more than 23 will have had BCG. Many will have type 1 or type 2. Or do you have to have BCG after the diabetes develops? It all seems unlikely to me. Perhaps I should run it past my GP and ask for a BCG jab. Do you think they still give them?

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
5 years ago

I read some more. The ‘cured’ people are still on insulin, albeit a reduced dose. The BCG is reducing the auto-immune reaction by which the system attacks its own beta cells in the pancreas. I guess it will suppress other more desirable immune system effects. More research is needed.. And the diabetes epidemic. It seems to coincide with the NHS looking for diabetes in folks who do not present with the symptoms while lowering the threshold of blood glucose considered OK. They are finding people and putting them on treatment they may not need. Not BCG, which must be administered… Read more »

5 years ago

There is an adapted environment thingy effect in health. Since childhood I drank green-top milk and I rarely had stomach problems. Over-regulation caused my milk delivery to chose to stop doing green-top milk a few years ago, and I wonder if recent occurances of stomach problems are related, the biome in my gut has been assaulted with something it’s not used to. Hmmm. I’ve also put on about two stone since then as well.

5 years ago

Remarkable finding and thank you for flagging it Tom.
I did a brief search on top countries for tuberculosis and India, Indonesia and China came top. Those same countries also come in the top 5 for prevalence of diabetes. I’m assuming that they don’t have a widespread BCG vaccination programme but can’t be sure, and may have confused absolute numbers with prevalence, but there could be a lot in this.

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