Researchers in Israel have identified a fascinating new possibility for treating Alzheimer’s disease using tuberculosis vaccine.

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine has been around for 80 years and is very effective. Although it is rarely used in the United States, it is extensively used in many countries, especially those where TB incidence is high. Recently, BCG has also been used to treat bladder cancer because it modulates the immune system.

A team at Hebrew University in Jerusalem wanted to see if the vaccine’s effect on the immune system could also aid with Alzheimer’s treatment. They looked at around 1400 older bladder cancer patients. Patients who were not treated with BCG eventually developed Alzheimer’s at the rate of 8.9 percent – about the same as the general population. However, only 2.4 percent who got the vaccine developed Alzheimer’s.

The researchers stress that BCG is not a Alzheimer’s vaccine, but it may give us important clues how to fight this devastating disease.