BCG is protective against death in male but not female patients with pulmonary tuberculosis in Guinea-Bissau

Anders Solitander Bohlbro*, Antonio Matteus Mendes, Armando Sifna, Cecilie Blenstrup Patsche, Martin Emil Schomann Soelberg, Victor Gomes, Christian Wejse, Frauke Rudolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Growing evidence supports the existence of a sex difference in immunity to tuberculosis (TB). This is most often to the detriment of males. This study aimed to assess the association between scar size from bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and mortality risk stratified by sex.

METHODS: Kaplan-Meier survivor functions and Cox proportional hazard models were used to assess mortality risk by sex and scar size. Groups were further compared by clinical and epidemiological characteristics.

RESULTS: Between 2003 and 2019, 2944 eligible patients were identified, of whom 1003 were included in the final analysis. Males with BCG scars, particularly large scars, were less likely to die within 1 y of diagnosis than males with no scar (adjusted hazard ratio 0.36 [95% confidence interval 0.15 to 0.88]). In contrast, females with small scars trended towards higher mortality than females with no scars or females with large scars.

CONCLUSIONS: BCG protects against death in male but not female patients with TB. More research is needed to determine the mechanisms underpinning these sex differences and whether they are generalizable beyond this setting.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Pages (from-to)365-374
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)
  • immunology
  • low-resource settings
  • mortality risk
  • sex differences
  • tuberculosis


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