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Tuberculosis vaccine BCG: the magical effect of the old vaccine in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Aspatwar, Ashok1
  • Gong, Wenping2
  • Wang, Shuyong2
  • Wu, Xueqiong2
  • Parkkila, Seppo1, 3
  • 1 Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Finland , (Finland)
  • 2 Army Tuberculosis Prevention and Control Key Laboratory, Beijing Key Laboratory of New Techniques of Tuberculosis Diagnosis and Treatment, Institute for Tuberculosis Research, the 8th Medical Center of Chinese PLA General Hospital, China , (China)
  • 3 Fimlab Laboratories Ltd, Tampere University Hospital, Finland , (Finland)
Published Article
International Reviews of Immunology
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
May 07, 2021
DOI: 10.1080/08830185.2021.1922685
PMID: 33960271
PMCID: PMC8108189
PubMed Central
  • Review


Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a live attenuated M. bovis vaccine that was developed about 100 years ago by Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin. Many countries have been using the vaccine for decades against tuberculosis (TB). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a single dose of BCG for infants in TB endemic as well as leprosy high risk countries, and globally almost 130 million infants are vaccinated yearly. The role of BCG is well known in reducing neonatal and childhood death rates. Epidemiological and retrospective cross-sectional studies demonstrated that the BCG vaccination protects the children against respiratory tract infections and lowers the risk of malaria in children. In addition, BCG enhances IFN-γ and IL-10 levels, thus providing immunity against respiratory tract infection even in elderly people. The BCG is also known to provide nonspecific innate immunity against viruses and parasites, through an innate immune mechanism termed ‘trained immunity’ and is defined as the immunological recall of the innate immune system by epigenetic reprogramming. Based on these studies it is suggested that the BCG has the potential to act as a protective agent against COVID-19. Further proven safety records of BCG in humans, its adjuvant activity and low-cost manufacturing make it an attractive option to stop the pandemic and reduce the COVID-19 related mortality. In this review we discuss the heterologous effects of BCG, induction of trained immunity and its implication in development of a potential vaccine against COVID-19 pandemic.

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