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Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Feb 15;42(4):548-58. Epub 2006 Jan 11.

Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine-induced disease in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected children.

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  • 1Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, South Africa.



Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG)--a live, attenuated vaccine--is routinely given to neonates in settings where tuberculosis is endemic, irrespective of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) exposure. HIV-infected infants and other immunodeficient infants are at risk of BCG-related complications. We report the presentation, treatment, and mortality of children who develop BCG disease, with emphasis on HIV-infected children. In addition, we present a revised classification of BCG disease in children and propose standard diagnostic and management guidelines.


This retrospective, hospital-based study was conducted in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex isolates recovered from children aged <13 years during the period of August 2002 through January 2005 were speciated by polymerase chain reaction to confirm Mycobacterium bovis BCG. Clinical data were collected through medical file review. BCG disease was classified according to standard and revised disease classifications. Mortality was assessed at the end of the study period.


BCG disease was diagnosed in 25 children; 22 (88%) had local disease, and 8 (32%) had distant or disseminated disease; 5 children (20%) had both local and distant or disseminated disease. Seventeen children were HIV infected; 2 children had other immunodeficiencies. All 8 children with distant or disseminated disease were immunodeficient; 6 were HIV infected. The mortality rate was 75% for children with distant or disseminated disease.


BCG vaccination poses a risk to infants perinatally infected with HIV and to other primary immunodeficient children. The proposed pediatric BCG disease classification reflects clinically relevant disease categories in HIV-infected children. The suggested diagnostic and treatment guidelines should improve existing case management and surveillance. Prospective evaluation of management strategies for BCG disease in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected children is essential.

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