BCG and protection against inflammatory and auto-immune diseases

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2017 Jul;16(7):1-10. doi: 10.1080/14760584.2017.1333906. Epub 2017 May 30.


Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is the only available vaccine against tuberculosis. Although its protective efficacy against pulmonary tuberculosis is still under debate, it provides protection against other mycobacterial diseases. BCG is also an effective therapy against superficial bladder cancer and potentially decreases overall childhood mortality. Areas covered: The purpose of this paper is to provide a state-of-the-art summary of the beneficial effects of BCG in inflammatory and auto-immune diseases. As a strong inducer of Th1 type immunity, BCG has been reported to protect against atopic conditions, such as allergic asthma, a Th2-driven disorder. Its protective effect has been well documented in mice, but still awaits definitive evidence in humans. Similarly, murine studies have shown a protective effect of BCG against auto-immune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and insulin-dependent diabetes, but studies in humans have come to conflicting conclusions. Expert commentary: Studies in mice have shown a beneficial effect of the BCG vaccine against allergic asthma, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. However, the understanding of its mechanism is still fragmentary and requires further in depth research. Some observational or intervention studies in humans have also suggested a beneficial effect, but definitive evidence for this requires confirmation in carefully conducted prospective studies.

Keywords: BCG; atopy; diabetes; multiple sclerosis; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Autoimmunity*
  • BCG Vaccine / adverse effects
  • BCG Vaccine / immunology
  • BCG Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Heterologous
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • BCG Vaccine