A number of new tuberculosis (TB) vaccines have been or are entering clinical trials, which include genetically modified mycobacteria, mycobacterial antigens delivered by viral vectors, or mycobacterial antigens in adjuvant. Some of these vaccines aim to replace the existing BCG vaccine but others will be given as a boosting vaccine following BCG vaccination given soon after birth. It is clear that the existing BCG vaccines provide incomplete and variable protection against pulmonary TB. This review will discuss what we have learnt over the last 20 years about how the BCG vaccine induces specific and non-specific immunity, what factors influence the immune responses induced by BCG, and progress toward identifying correlates of immunity against TB from BCG vaccination studies. There is still a lot to learn about the BCG vaccine and the insights gained can help the development of more protective vaccines.
Keywords: BCG; biomarkers; correlates of protection; efficacy; immune responses; infants; tuberculosis; vaccination.