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The game changers that will help us to defeat Covid-19

From vaccines to mobile apps, scientists in Ireland and across the world are doing pioneering work to find a solution to the coronavirus crisis. John Meagher reports

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Looking for answers: Niall Conlon (centre) with Dr Liam Townsend and Cliona Ni Cheallaigh in the Department of Immunology at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. A team at St James’s is hoping to find markers to help predict how a patient will react to the disease. Photo by Frank McGrath

Looking for answers: Niall Conlon (centre) with Dr Liam Townsend and Cliona Ni Cheallaigh in the Department of Immunology at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. A team at St James’s is hoping to find markers to help predict how a patient will react to the disease. Photo by Frank McGrath

Technology:  Singapore’s new contact-tracing smarthphone app called TraceTogether. A similar app is due to be unveiled in Ireland next week

Technology: Singapore’s new contact-tracing smarthphone app called TraceTogether. A similar app is due to be unveiled in Ireland next week

Hope: Professor Luke O’Neill says 267 Covid-19 remedies are now in development

Hope: Professor Luke O’Neill says 267 Covid-19 remedies are now in development

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Looking for answers: Niall Conlon (centre) with Dr Liam Townsend and Cliona Ni Cheallaigh in the Department of Immunology at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. A team at St James’s is hoping to find markers to help predict how a patient will react to the disease. Photo by Frank McGrath

Tuberculosis was the great killer in Ireland for much of the first half of the 20th century. In 1922, the year the Irish Free State came into being, 4,614 people died from TB. Some 611 of them were children below the age of 15.

It was the silent terror that haunted the country right up until the 1950s when visionary health minister Noël Browne introduced mass free screening for TB and initiated a huge construction programme of hospitals and sanatoria.

But, there was another tool in the war against TB that was already having a significant impact by the time Browne took office: a vaccine called Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG).