A historical and molecular phylogeny of BCG strains

Vaccine. 1999 Feb 26;17(7-8):915-22. doi: 10.1016/s0264-410x(98)00277-1.


Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is the name given to a family of vaccines derived in 1921 by the in-vitro attenuation of Mycobacterium bovis. Subsequently, BCG seed lots were distributed globally, and both phenotypic and genotypic differences between strains have been described. As a step to understanding BCG diversity, we have reviewed the English and French historical record on 13 strains and DNA was extracted from these strains for restriction-fragment-length-polymorphism study. The written record suggests "early strains" obtained from the Pasteur Institute between 1924 and 1926 and "later strains" obtained after 1931. Molecular typing resulted in 3 clades, based on variability in IS6110-typing and the presence of mpt64 gene. With two exceptions, these clades correspond with strains obtained in 1924-26 (IS6110-2/mpt64+), 1926-31 (IS6110-1/mpt64+), and 1931 or later (IS6110-1/mpt64-) This analysis demonstrates that BCG has undergone genetic changes since 1921, consistent with ongoing in-vitro evolution.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • BCG Vaccine / history*
  • Europe
  • History, 20th Century
  • Mycobacterium bovis / classification*
  • Mycobacterium bovis / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*


  • BCG Vaccine