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Questions of A More Technical Nature

BCG Vaccine and Abo Blood Groups


QUESTION

In ER4YT, you mentioned several vaccines and their effects on different blood types. You did not mention the BCG, however. As this is obligatory in France where I live, I would like to have some advice on its effects, in particular on Type O. Many thanks for your help.


ANSWER

BCG Vaccine is a preparation consisting of attenuated human tubercle bacilli that is used for immunization against tuberculosis. BCG vaccine (bacille Calmette-Guérin) is a preparation of live, but markedly weakened, tuberculosis organisms that are used as a vaccine to give protection against the harmful, natural form of the disease. In countries where tuberculosis is still common, the BCG is given in infancy. (The BCG is not commonly used in the United States.) A skin test is carried out first to show if a natural immunity has been acquired. The BCG vaccine was first used by Leon Calmette and Camille Guérin.

Though no specific studies exist examining the rate of vaccine reactions to BCG as per ABO blood group, there are a few surprising associations:

BCG vaccination apparently lowers the levels of anti-blood type antibodies (anti-A and anti-B) that may explain why prolonged use of BCG in cancer patients often has the paradoxical effect of suppressing their immune response. (1) Another study showed that many surgical patients (typically bowel surgery patients) had higher levels of anti-blood type antibodies, which the researchers thought were the result of the stimulation of their immune-system caused by resorption of their intestinal mucus, containing compounds identical to the blood group substances A and B, or by resorption of similar bacterial antigens. The authors hypothesized that these patients would not need BCG stimulation, since it did essentially the same thing. (2)

Finally, it is known that the response of certain bladder cancers to BCG vaccine therapy is in part related to their ability to secrete ABO blood type antigens (3).

The most common side effect is asthma, which is interesting in light of the fact that asthma itself is associated with higher levels of anti-blood type antibodies in type O-non secretor individuals. (4)

1. Helander I, Nordman E, Hakkinen IP, Toivanen A. Prolonged BCG treatment of melanoma: does it suppress the immune capacity? Br J Dermatol 1979 Oct;101(4):421-7

2. Peter H, Peter H, Werny D[Hemagglutinins and immunoglobulins in surgical patients and blood donors]. Med Klin 1978 Apr 28;73(17):615-20

3. Sanders H, McCue P, Graham SD Jr ABO(H) antigens and beta-2 microglobulin in transitional cell carcinoma. Predictors of response to intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin. . Cancer 1991 Jun 15;67(12):3024-8

4. Kauffmann F, Frette C, Pham QT, Nafissi S, Bertrand JP, Oriol R Associations of blood group-related antigens to FEV1, wheezing, and asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996 Jan;153(1):76-82




The Ask Dr. D'Adamo internet advice column ran from 1996 to 2009, at which time Dr. D'Adamo's teaching and programming responsibilities no longer allowed him to devote time and resources to directly answering visitor questions. However we've recently reorganized this treasure-trove of material and made it again available to his readership. He occasionally posts new entries. These are marked with a NEW tag.



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