Is there an alternative to the BCG vaccine?

Why can't the BCG vaccine be changed into some other medicine?

23 March 2015

From your question am I correct in thinking that you are looking for a tablet or liquid medicine that you can swallow rather than have an injection to protect someone against Tuberculosis (TB)?

As you may know in humans TB is caused by infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis group of bacteria that affect almost any part of the body.

TB is a serious infectious disease that can lead to TB meningitis (swelling of the lining of the brain) in babies. In young people and adults it usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect the glands, brain or bones. Most people in this country recover fully after treatment, but this takes several months.

To prevent people being infected with TB people, including babies are vaccinated with a BCG vaccine.

In order for a person to have antibodies to fight an infection the body needs to be exposed to the specific bacteria that cause the disease.

This means that to have antibodies to TB, so have immunity to TB, a person needs to be exposed or have met bacteria that cause TB.

If a person takes a liquid or tablet medicine that contain TB causing bacteria then these bacteria will most likely be destroyed by the stomach acid before it reaches the blood stream. This means that the body will not be exposed to the bacteria causing TB so unlikely to develop antibodies to TB.

The TB bacteria in the BCG vaccine are injected straight into the blood stream so the bacteria will not be destroyed so they will encourage the body to produce antibodies to the TB.

A BCG vaccine contains a weakened form of the bacteria (germs) that cause TB. Because it is weakened it doesn’t actually cause TB, but it helps people develop antibodies. These provide protection (immunity) against TB in case he or she ever comes into contact with bacteria that cause TB.

Answered by Health at Hand nurses.


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