Past attempts to use fractions of mycobacteria as an alternative to BCG have given disappointing results. The availability of cloned genes and suitable vectors has now opened a new avenue in which individual mycobacterial protein antigens are synthesised within transfected mammalian cells. In an ex vivo transfection approach with a retroviral vector we found that even a single antigen (hsp65) could evoke strong protection when expressed as a transgene and that expression of protection was largely a function of antigen specific cytotoxic T cells. We now find that intramuscular injection of plasmid DNA expressing the antigen from either a viral or a murine promoter can also give protection equivalent to Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG). Plasmids expressing some other mycobacterial antigens, hsp70, 36 kDa and 6 kDa, are also effective, suggesting that this approach may lead to a new vaccine.