Ultraviolet susceptibility of BCG and virulent tubercle bacilli

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1976 Apr;113(4):413-8. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1976.113.4.413.


To test the effectiveness of irradiating the upper air of a room with ultraviolet light at reducing the concentration of airborne tubercle bacilli, the susceptibility to the germicidal effects of ultraviolet light, Z, was determined for various mycobacteria. Virulent tubercle bacilli and bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) were equally susceptible to ultraviolet radiation, whereas Mycobacterium phlei had 10 times their resistance (Z, approximately one-tenth that for M. tuberculosis). The effectiveness against BCG of upper air ultraviolet irradiation in a room was tested directly by nebulizing BCG into the air of the room and monitoring its rate of disappearance. With one 17-watt fixture operating, the rate of disappearance increased 6-fold; with 2 fixtures operating (46 watts total), the rate of disappearance increased 9-fold. This implies that under steady-state conditions, the concentrations of airborne organisms with ultraviolet light(s) on would have been one-sixth and one-ninth, respectively. The increase in rate of decay of the airborne organisms using 1 fixture was equivalent to 10 air changes per hour, whereas that using 2 fixtures was approximately 25 air changes per hour (range: 18 to 33 air changes per hour). These increments are less than those reported previously for Serratia marcescens, because the Z value for BCG is approximately one-seventh that for serratia. These findings with BCG are believed to be directly applicable to virulent tubercle bacilli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology
  • BCG Vaccine*
  • Disinfection
  • Mycobacterium bovis / radiation effects*
  • Mycobacterium phlei / radiation effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • BCG Vaccine