London: A new research suggests that an anti-tuberculosis vaccine could prevent multiple sclerosis.
A small-scale study by researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome has raised hopes that the disease can be warded off when early symptoms appear, the BBC reported.
More research is needed before the BCG vaccine can be trialled on MS patients.
The MS Society said the chance to take a safe and effective preventative treatment after a first MS-like attack would be a huge step forward.
MS is a disease affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.
Early signs include numbness, vision difficulties or problems with balance.
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a live vaccine made up of a weakened strain of Mycobacterium bovis, a bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.
The bacteria are altered so that they do not cause a TB infection, but stimulate the body's immune system to make it resistant to the disease.
The vaccine has existed for 80 years and is one of the most widely used of all current vaccines, reaching more than 80 percent of newborns and infants in countries where it is part of the national childhood immunisation programme.
About half of people with a first episode of symptoms go on to develop MS within two years, while 10 percent have no more problems.
In the study, Italian researchers gave 33 people who had early signs of MS an injection of BCG vaccine.
The other 40 individuals in the study were given a placebo.
After five years, 30 percent of those who received the placebo had not developed MS, compared with 58 percent of those vaccinated.
Study leader Dr Giovanni Ristori said that these results are promising, but much more research needs to be done to learn more about the safety and long-term effects of this live vaccine.
The study is published in the journal Neurology.