Protecting our front-line staff

Thanks to the incredible support of our community, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) have launched a global initiative to protect front-line healthcare workers during COVID-19.

Led by Professor Nigel Curtis, the international trial is in the process of recruiting 10,000 healthcare workers from across the globe, who will be given the BCG vaccine to test whether it can protect those exposed to COVID-19 from developing severe symptoms by boosting their ‘frontline’ immunity.

BCG was originally developed against tuberculosis, and is still given to over 130 million babies worldwide each year for that purpose. Researchers at MCRI recently identified a link between this vaccine and protection against some respiratory viral infections, and in response to the current pandemic, launched the BCG Vaccination to Reduce the Impact of COVID-19 in Healthcare Workers (The BRACE Trial).

“The BRACE Trial is designed to find out whether the BCG vaccine provides a means of protecting healthcare workers until disease-specific vaccines become available. We’re hoping that the BCG vaccine will provide an interim measure to protect healthcare workers during the time it will take to develop a vaccine for COVID-19,” said Prof. Curtis.

Philanthropic support has allowed the trial’s rapid development and rollout in Australia, including support from the RCH Foundation, Sarah and Lachlan Murdoch, The Minderoo Foundation, the South Australian government, support from the NAB Foundation, Calvert-Jones Foundation, HUB Foundation, River Capital and individual donors.

“Since beginning the BRACE trial we have been inundated with requests from other hospitals wanting to be involved, both in Australia and internationally. This funding will allow us to begin delivering on those requests,” said Prof. Curtis.

An additional $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has allowed for the trial’s international expansion to Spain and The Netherlands.

“We have dealt with the pandemic extremely well in Australia with rapid and thorough physical distancing, contact tracing and quarantine where appropriate. This new funding from the Gates Foundation allows other countries to also test whether additional preventative measures may help protect healthcare workers,” said Prof. Curtis.

“These sorts of trials normally take around eight to 12 months to start, but with the early support of philanthropy, we were able to start in record time, within three weeks.”