CAPE TOWN – A new clinical trial investigating whether the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine can protect health care workers from being infected with Covid-19, is expected to launch in South Africa.
Researchers think that antibodies made to the MMR vaccine, which was developed nearly 50 years ago, might also fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Coronavirus. The trial is a combined effort between University of Witwatersrand, Washington University and University College London.
According to researcher Dr Michael Avidan, head of the department of anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the MMR vaccine is safe.
“We think there are two main reasons that it could prevent Covid-19. The first is this vaccine includes small amounts of live but very weakened measles, mumps and rubella viruses. This type of vaccine appears to strengthen the body’s immune response to infections in general, not just to the viruses in that particular vaccine,” said Avidan.
It was reported that approximately 30 000 healthcare workers will take part from around the world, including the UK, US, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Sub-Saharan Africa will enrol 5 000 voluntary participants. From this, 2500 people will be given the MMR shot and the other half will be given a placebo. The trial was granted $9-million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It will also receive an R1-million offering from the South African Medical Research Council.
Each study participant will be followed for five months, and the entire trial is expected to last about a year, the researchers said. Scientists at University College London (UCL) will compile the data from the trial.
“If the trial shows that the MMR vaccine can boost the body’s general immune response, we believe it may enhance the effectiveness of vaccines currently in development to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Researcher Dr Laurence Lovat, a professor of gastroenterology and biophotonics at UCL.
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