Non-specific effects of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Trunk, G. and Davidović, M. and Bohlius, J.. (2023) Non-specific effects of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Vaccines (Basel), 11. p. 121.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/93577/

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BACKGROUND: Vaccines induce antigen-specific immunity, which provides long-lived protection from the target pathogen. Trials from areas with high incidence rates for infectious diseases indicated that the tuberculosis vaccine Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) induces in addition non-specific immunity against various pathogens and thereby reduces overall mortality more than would have been expected by just protecting from tuberculosis. Although recent trials produced conflicting results, it was suggested that BCG might protect from non-tuberculosis respiratory infections and could be used to bridge the time until a specific vaccine against novel respiratory diseases like COVID-19 is available. METHODS: We performed a systematic search for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published between 2011 and December 9(th), 2022, providing evidence about non-specific effects after BCG vaccination, assessed their potential for bias, and meta-analyzed relevant clinical outcomes. We excluded RCTs investigating vaccination with an additional vaccine unless outcomes from a follow-up period before the second vaccination were reported. RESULTS: Our search identified 16 RCTs including 34,197 participants. Vaccination with BCG caused an estimated 44% decrease in risk for respiratory infections (hazard ratio (HR) 0.56, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.39-0.82) with substantial heterogeneity between trials (I(2) = 77%). There was evidence for a protective effect on all-cause mortality of 21% if follow-up was restricted to one year (HR 0.79, 95% CI 0.64-0.99). We did not find evidence for an effect when we considered longer follow-up (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.75-1.03). Infection-related mortality after BCG vaccination was reduced by 33% (HR 0.67; 95% CI 0.46-0.99), mortality for sepsis by 38% (HR 0.62, 95% CI 0.41-0.93). There was no evidence for a protective effect of BCG vaccination on infections of any origin (HR 0.84, 95% CI 0.71-1.00), COVID-19 (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.68-1.14), sepsis (HR 0.78, 95% CI 0.55-1.10) or hospitalization (HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.91-1.11). CONCLUSIONS: According to these results, depending on the setting, vaccination with BCG provides time-limited partial protection against non-tuberculosis respiratory infections and may reduce mortality. These findings underline BCG's potential (1) in pandemic preparedness against novel pathogens especially in developing countries with established BCG vaccination programs but limited access to specific vaccines; (2) in reducing microbial infections, antimicrobial prescriptions and thus the development of antimicrobial resistance. There is a need for additional RCTs to clarify the circumstances under which BCG's non-specific protective effects are mediated.
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH)
09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) > Eco System Health Sciences
UniBasel Contributors:Davidovic, Masa and Bohlius, Julia Friederike
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
ISSN:2076-393X (Print)2076-393X (Electronic)2076-393X (Linking)
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:13 Feb 2023 09:17
Deposited On:13 Feb 2023 09:17

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