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Study: BCG prevents TB infection in children

New research published in the BMJ shows that the BCG vaccine may also protect against TB infections. 

Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine may also decrease the progression from M. tuberculosis (TB) infection to disease. 

Before Public Health England's (PHEs) study it was widely accepted that BCG protects against the most severe forms of disease, such as TB meningitis in children. 

Through examining existing evidence PHE found that the BCG vaccine can also protect an individual form becoming infected. 

BCG vaccinated children were less likely than unvaccinated children to have evidence of TB infection after exposure, the researchers found.

Skin test were previously unable to distinguish between TB infection, infection from non-TB mycobacterium and the BCG vaccine, making it impossible to tell if someone who received the vaccine had been protected against TB infection. 

Dr Anjana Roy, PHE senior scientist and lead author on the study said: “These results suggest a significant shift in our understanding of how anti mycobacterial vaccines work, and could indicate that not only does BCG vaccine protects against developing active TB disease, but that it also protects against getting infected.

“This finding will have implications for the use of BCG in current immunisation programmes as well as in the future development of new improved tuberculosis vaccines. It reinforces the recommendation that BCG should be given as soon as possible after birth to prevent children from getting infected.”