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Prior BCG vaccination improves survival of Gambian patients treated for pulmonary tuberculosis

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The protection provided by BCG against pulmonary tuberculosis ranges from nil to over 90%. While BCG protects against the more serious forms of tuberculosis, it is not known whether or not it protects patients with pulmonary tuberculosis from death. In a study designed to look at the effects of immunotherapy with M. vaccae as an adjunct to chemotherapy in 285 adult Gambian patients treated for proven pulmonary tuberculosis, we examined the association between the presence or absence of a BCG scar and mortality. The data showed that subjects who had a BCG scar were significantly younger than those who did not, and were less likely to have nutritional oedema. During the course of treatment, none of the 85 patients who had a BCG scar died compared to 35 of 200 patients (17.5%) who did not (P < 0.001). In these Gambian patients with pulmonary tuberculosis, prior vaccination with BCG may have provided substantial protection against death. However, there is the possibility that this finding is the result of confounding by other factors or has arisen from bias. Researchers with similar data need to investigate this question as this association, if true, could have major implications for BCG vaccination.
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Keywords: BCG; The Gambia; pulmonary tuberculosis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Medical Research Council Laboratories, Banjul, The Gambia 2: Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK 3: Ministry of Health, Government of The Gambia, Banjul, The Gambia 4: Department of Bacteriology, University College, London, UK

Publication date: 2000-06-01

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