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

Ashok Aspatwar, Wenping Gong, Shuyong Wang, Xueqiong Wu, Seppo Parkkila

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG)
  • COVID-19
  • morbidity
  • mortality
  • SARS-CoV-2 virus

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Tuberculosis vaccine BCG: the magical effect of the old vaccine in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this