Effectiveness of BCG Vaccination Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection in Adults: A Cross-sectional Analysis of a UK-Based Cohort

J Infect Dis. 2020 Jan 1;221(1):146-155. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz430.


Background: BCG appears to reduce acquisition of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in children, measured using interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs). We explored whether BCG vaccination continues to be associated with decreased prevalence of M. tuberculosis infection in adults.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from adult contacts of tuberculosis cases participating in a UK cohort study. Vaccine effectiveness (VE) of BCG, ascertained based on presence of a scar or vaccination history, against latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI), measured via IGRA, was assessed using multivariable logistic regression. The effects of age at BCG and time since vaccination were also explored.

Results: Of 3453 recent tuberculosis contacts, 27.5% had LTBI. There was strong evidence of an association between BCG and LTBI (adjusted odds ratio = 0.70; 95% confidence interval, .56-.87; P = .0017) yielding a VE of 30%. VE declined with time since vaccination but there was evidence that LTBI prevalence was lower amongst vaccinated individuals even >20 years after vaccination, compared with nonvaccinated participants.

Conclusions: BCG is associated with lower prevalence of LTBI in adult contacts of tuberculosis. These results contribute to growing evidence that suggests BCG may protect against M. tuberculosis infection as well as disease. This has implications for immunization programs, vaccine development, and tuberculosis control efforts worldwide.

Clinical trials registration: NCT01162265.

Keywords: BCG; Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine; tuberculosis; vaccine effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • BCG Vaccine*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Latent Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Latent Tuberculosis / ethnology
  • Latent Tuberculosis / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vaccination
  • Young Adult


  • BCG Vaccine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01162265