Fighting TB: The Baccillus Calmette-Guerin Vaccine

Contributed by Leila Fleming, Class of 2019

calmetteguerinTwo French born scientists, Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin, developed the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine.  It is often referred to as the BCG vaccine, an immunization against tuberculosis (TB).  Albert Calmette was born in Paris in 1933 and was a pupil of Louis Pasteur.  He is also credited with developing a diagnostic test for tuberculosis.  His co-developer, Camille Guerin actually studied to be a veterinarian.  Guerin’s father died of tuberculosis in 1882 as well as his wife in 1918.  This loss presumably motivated Guerin in his work toward a vaccine.

The two found that successive cultures of the bacteria weakened it enough that it could produce an immune response but not illness.  Their research began in 1905 but was interrupted by the upheaval of the First World War.  The vaccine was first used in humans in 1921.

By the late 1920’s the vaccine had reached numerous countries.  The BCG vaccine has been a source of some controversy.  In 1930, over two hundred infants were given a contaminated batch of the vaccine.  Seventy-two children developed TB and died.  Criminal charges were filed and two employees of the lab that manufactured this batch were sent to prison for their negligence.  While the vaccine was not to blame, this did cause a blemish on its reputation.

Today, the vaccine is widely used in children as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) immunization program. The BCG is not recommended for Americans but it still in use in many countries with higher risk of contracting the infection. Tuberculosis is prevalent in South-East Asia, the Western Pacific and Africa.  The BCG remains the only available vaccine against TB.

 

References:

“Albert Calmette | French Bacteriologist”. Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

“BCG Vaccine | Current Use & Safety”. TB Facts.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

“BCG Vaccine | Medicine”. Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

 

“Camille Guerin | French Biologist”. Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

“Camille Guérin”. Wikipedia. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

“History Of The BCG Vaccine | Calmette, Guerin, Lubeck”. TB Facts.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

“Timeline”. Tuberculosis: <br />Finding a Cure. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. (photo)

“Tuberculosis (TB)”. World Health Organization. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

 

 

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