Medical Definition of Bacille Calmette Guerin

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Bacille Calmette Guerin: An effective immunization against tuberculosis. Commonly abbreviated BCG, it is an attenuated (weakened) version of a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis which is closely related to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the agent responsible for tuberculosis.

Camille Guérin (1872-1961) and Albert Calmette (1863-1933) produced the BCG strain of the bacteria at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1921. Within a decade BCG was being given in France and many other countries. By 1928, BCG had been given to 116,000 infants in France alone. However, conflicting reports about its effectiveness delayed the use of the BCG vaccine in the United States until 1950.

BCG is also used as an adjuvant to stimulate the immune response and in cancer chemotherapy.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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