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Front Immunol. 2019 Feb 19;10:234. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00234. eCollection 2019.

BCG Vaccination Induces M. avium and M. abscessus Cross-Protective Immunity.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, United States.
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, United States.


Pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) infections particularly caused by Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) and Mycobacterium abscessus (MAB) are becoming major health problems in the U.S. New therapies or vaccines which will help prevent the disease, shorten treatment duration and/or increase treatment success rates are urgently needed. This study was conducted with the objective of testing the hypothesis that Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG), a vaccine used for prevention of serious forms of tuberculosis (TB) in children and adolescents in tuberculosis hyperendemic countries, induces cross-protective T cell immunity against Mycobacterium avium (MAV) and MAB. Human TB and NTM cross-protective T cells were quantified using flow cytometric assays. The ability of BCG expanded T cells to inhibit the intracellular growth of MAV and MAB was assessed in co-cultures with infected autologous macrophages. In both BCG-vaccinated and M. tuberculosis (Mtb)-infected mice, NTM cross-reactive immunity was measured using IFN-γ ELISPOT assays. Our results demonstrate the following key findings: (i) peripheral blood mononuclear cells from TB skin test-positive individuals contain MAV and MAB cross-reactive T cells, (ii) both BCG vaccination and Mtb infection of mice induce MAV and MAB cross-reactive splenic cells, (iii) BCG-expanded T cells inhibit intracellular MAV and MAB, (iv) CD4, CD8, and γδ T cells play important roles in inhibition of intracellular MAV and MAB and (v) BCG vaccination of healthy volunteers induces TB and NTM cross-reactive T cells. In conclusion, BCG-vaccination induces NTM cross-reactive immunity, and has the potential for use as a vaccine or immunotherapy to prevent and/or treat pulmonary NTM disease.


BCG; abscessus; avium; mycobacteria; nontuberculous

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