Dr. Giovanni Ristori of Sapienza University of Rome in Italy published research that presents the first known successful vaccine for multiple sclerosis in the Dec. 4, 2013, issue of the journal Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The initial study involved 73 patients that reported symptoms that are typical of the onset of multiple sclerosis and had those symptoms verified by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Thirty-three of the participants received one injection of a live vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guérin. Bacille Calmette-Guérin is used to treat tuberculosis in some countries but is not approved for use in the United States. The remainder of the participants received a placebo vaccine.
During the first six months of the trail all patients had an MRI every month and then took the multiple sclerosis drug interferon beta-1a for a year. All participants took a multiple sclerosis drug for the remainder of the five year trail period.
Participants that took the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine had half the number of lesions develop in their brain after six months than those participants that did not take the vaccine.
The participants that received the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine were half as likely to have developed multiple sclerosis as those participants that did not take the vaccine after five years.
The researchers state that more research is need before the use of the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine as a preventative for multiple sclerosis can be definitely established.
The most likely cause of the lower rates of development of multiple sclerosis in people that took the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine is that exposure to some disease producing bacteria early in life may produce immunity to other diseases like multiple sclerosis.
The concept is based on a comparison of rates of multiple sclerosis in Europe and the United States with those of Africa and Asia. People in Africa and Asia are more likely to be exposed to tuberculosis and develop or inherit immunity to tuberculosis and possibly multiple sclerosis than people in Europe and the United States.