More Pathogens, More Potency?

Infectious killer TB has a single vaccine: bacille Calmette-Guérin. A recent study found that BCG developed in different countries varies wildly in the numbers of live bacteria it contains—some have 10–1,000X more others.

“Imagine we marketed a heart medication and some people were getting 10–1,000-fold more of the active ingredient than others,” says lead author Ofer Levy. But studies of whether bacteria counts influence effectiveness are inconclusive. What is certain: BCG saves thousands of lives every year.

Testing the efficacy of every formula would require enormous effort and funding that might be used for developing better alternatives.


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