• BCG Vaccine

    (Tuberculosis Vaccine)

    What Is Tuberculosis?

    Tuberculosis , or TB, is a bacterial infection caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium. The bacteria typically infect the lungs. They can also infect other areas of the body, like the kidney, spine, or brain.
    TB is spread from the lungs of a person with TB through coughing. When a person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria travel into the air and may be inhaled by a person standing nearby. TB is most commonly spread through repeated contact, such as within a family. Short-term exposure can also cause TB.
    At one point, TB was the leading cause of death in the US. As treatments were developed, the rates began to drop. Today, there are far fewer cases, but the disease is still present.
    TB is still a major health problem throughout the world, particularly in Africa. People with AIDS also have a higher risk of getting TB.
    Symptoms depend on where the bacteria have settled and grown in the body. The lungs are often infected. Symptoms of TB infection in the lungs include:
    • A cough that lasts three weeks or longer
    • Chest pain
    • Coughing up blood or phlegm
    • Weakness
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fever and chills
    • Night sweats
    TB can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal.

    What Is the BCG vaccine?

    The Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG, can help prevent TB. However, this vaccine does not always protect people from getting TB.
    The vaccine contains live, weakened bacteria. It is given as shot in the arm.

    Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

    The following individuals should be considered for vaccination:
    • Children who have a negative tuberculin skin test and who are continually exposed to a person who has untreated or drug resistant tuberculosis and the child cannot be separated from this person
    • Healthcare workers and people who work in labs who work where there is ongoing transmission of drug-resistant strains of TB that have not been reduced with precautions
    The vaccine is usually given one time. It may be given twice in some cases.

    What Are the Risks Associated With BCG Vaccine?

    The vaccine may cause a TB skin test to have a false-positive reading. This means that you may test positive for TB even though you do not have it. Blood tests are available to check for TB infection that are not affected by previous BCG vaccination.
    Common side effects of the vaccine include:
    • Redness at the injection site
    • Fever
    • Muscle aches
    More serious side effects may rarely occur and could lead to serious illness or death.
    Symptoms of an allergic reaction (eg, rash, trouble breathing) require medical care right away.

    Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

    You should not get the vaccine if you:
    • Have a compromised immune system, (eg, HIV/AIDS)
    • Are undergoing an organ transplant
    • Are pregnant

    What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

    Containing the virus depends on giving antibiotics and isolating people who are infected. It is important to take all of the antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria and to avoid spreading it to others.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/

    US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/


    Basic TB facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm. Updated March 13, 2012. Accessed November 29, 2012.

    BCG vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/pubs/tbfactsheets/bcg.htm . Accessed February 6, 2007.

    BCG vaccine. DailyMed website. Available at: http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=a83f0b99-9038-4c5a-aaac-8792b32838fe#nlm34084-4. Updated September 2011. Accessed November 29, 2012.

    Kaufmann SH. Fact and fiction in tuberculosis vaccine research: 10 years later. Lancet Infect Dis. 2011;11(8):633-640.

    Kaufmann SH, Hussey G, Lambert PH. New vaccines for tuberculosis. Lancet . 2010 Jun 12;375(9731):2110-9.

    Pediatric tuberculosis fact sheet. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/tuberculosis/tuberculosis-in-children-fact.html . Updated February 2010. Accessed November 29, 2012.

    Rouanet C, Locht C. Boosting BCG to protect against TB. Expert Rev Respir Med . 2010 Jun;4(3):339-48.

    Revision Information

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