PATHOGENS AND GLOBAL HEALTH, vol.115, no.6, pp.405-411, 2021 (SCI-Expanded)
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought countries' health services into sharp focus. It was drawn to our group's attention that healthcare workers (HCWs) had a lower mortality rate against higher COVID-19 incidence compared to the general population in Turkey. Since risk of exposure to tuberculosis bacillus among healthcare workers are higher than the population, we aimed to investigate if there is a relationship between BCG and Mycobacterium tuberculosis exposure history with COVID-19 severity in infected HCWs. This study was conducted with 465 infected HCWs from thirty-three hospitals to assess the relationship between COVID-19 severity (according to their hospitalization status and the presence of radiological pneumonia) and BCG and Mycobacterium tuberculosis exposure history. HCWs who required hospital admission had significantly higher rates of chronic diseases, radiological pneumonia, and longer working hours in the clinics. Higher rates of history of contact and care to tuberculosis patients, history of tuberculosis, and BCG vaccine were observed in hospitalized HCWs. HCWs who had radiological pneumonia had a significantly increased ratio of history of care to tuberculosis patients and a higher family history of tuberculosis. The findings from our study suggest that the lower mortality rate despite the more severe disease course seen in infected HCWs might be due to frequent exposure to tuberculosis bacillus and the mortality-reducing effects of the BCG vaccine.