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Background: Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) is a live-attenuated vaccine used world-wide for prevention of tuberculosis disease. In some immunocompromised hosts it has the potential to cause disease. As with other members of the M. tuberculosis complex it has the potential for acquiring drug resistance. Methods: We reviewed 10 years of paediatric clinical BCG strains referred to our clinical microbiology laboratory in Oxford where they underwent whole genome sequencing. We present a case series comparing clinical, pathogen genetic and pathogen phenotypic data, and consider the clinical implications. Results: We identified 15 BCG isolates from 8 children under 16 years old. Only one child had clinical disease with the other seven reported as local inoculation-site reactions. Case 1 suffered disseminated disease secondary to an undiagnosed IL-12/IFNγ receptor defect and the BCG isolates evolved two different rifampicin resistance mutations. Across all 15 isolates, phenotypic resistance to each first line drug was seen.  Conclusions: BCG is a safe and effective vaccine in children. Most clinical specimens in our series were not related to disease. However, in the context of rare pathogen-specific immunocompromise, BCG can cause pathology and acquire drug resistance under selection from therapy.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





242 - 242