By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers are testing a possible breakthrough in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. An inexpensive generic vaccine has shown promise, giving longtime patients new hope.

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Jennifer Sullivan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 15. She has managed the disease for 30 years, using insulin to control her blood sugar.

“You’re never free from it,” Jennifer said. “Anything you eat, anything you drink, stress level, exercise, everything factors into it every single day.”

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Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that often starts during childhood. Now researchers are launching a five-year clinical trial of a vaccine that might not just treat the disease, but actually reverse it for some diabetes patients. The drug, called BCG, has been used to prevent tuberculosis for decades.

Dr. Denise Faustman, one of the researchers, said, “We saw early signs that even at low doses of this vaccine, the bad white blood cells that were killing the pancreas were killed.”

Sullivan says it’s the kind of breakthrough that gives her hope of someday being able to better regulate her blood sugar and avoid further problems: “The risk of complications, like blindness, amputations, kidney disease, heart disease, not seeing my son grow up.”

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About one and a quarter million Americans have Type 1 diabetes. The research on the new treatment is currently being coordinated at Massachusetts General Hospital, also known as Mass Gen. More information on the new research can be found at www.faustmanlab.org

Stephanie Stahl