Vaccinations and Anti-retroviral Therapy

When I was at medical school, we were told that BCG vaccination reduced the risk of serious tuberculosis (TB) by a greater proportion than the reduction in infection of a milder or innocuous nature. However, until recently, it has been difficult to distinguish between infection and the effects of an earlier infection, previous BCG vaccination, or non-TB mycobacterial infection. A recent paper, using newer tests that can distinguish between these events, has confirmed what my teachers said at medical school – BCG protects against infection and protects even more against active disease.[1]

Meanwhile, a cluster RCT from CLAHRC Africa collaborators shows that initiating anti-retroviral therapy at home, rather than in hospital, increases uptake of therapy nearly three-fold. This practice was ‘dominant’, promising greater effectiveness at lower upfront and net costs.[2] A lot of research may be a waste of money, but not this study.

–Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Roy A, Eisenhut M, Harris RJ, Rodrigues LC, Sridhar S, Habermann S, Snell L, Mangtani P, Adetifa I, Lalvani A, Abubakar I. Effect of BCG vaccination against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in children: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2014; 349: g4643.
  2. MacPherson P, Lalloo DG, Webb EL, Maheswaran H, Choko AT, Makombe SD, Butterworth AE, van Oosterhout JJ, Desmond N, Thindwa D, Squire SB, Hayes RJ, Corbett EL. Effect of Optional Home Initiation of HIV Care Following HIV Self-testing on Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation Among Adults in Malawi. A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2014; 312(4): 372-9.

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