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Diseases and Disease Agents 2015
 FAQ - Diseases and Disease Agents - 2015



Seeing that TB is an air bourne transmitted infection, is the WHO providing guidelines as how to reduce the spread including immunisation?  

Your question appears to be related to specific WHO policy. Ask OSAP conducted a review of the WHO website ( ). Relevant information includes (and is not necessarily limited to):

Current WHO Fact Sheet

WHO response
WHO pursues six core functions in addressing TB.
1. Provide global leadership on matters critical to TB.
2. Develop evidence-based policies, strategies and standards for TB prevention, care and control, and monitor their implementation.
3. Provide technical support to Member States, catalyze change, and build sustainable capacity.
4. Monitor the global TB situation, and measure progress in TB care, control, and financing.
5. Shape the TB research agenda and stimulate the production, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge.
6. Facilitate and engage in partnerships for TB action. 1

WHO Vaccine Position Papers

Summary and conclusions Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the etiological agent of tuberculosis (TB), is a leading cause of human disease and death, particularly in developing countries. In the global context, TB is intimately linked to poverty, and control of TB is ultimately a question of justice and human rights. In some areas with a high burden of TB, existing strategies for TB control are currently overwhelmed by the rising number of cases of TB occurring in parallel with of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Emerging mycobacterial drug resistance is further complicating the situation. After decades of steady decline, the incidence of TB is also increasing in industrialized countries, mainly as the result of outbreaks in particularly vulnerable groups.

The bacille Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine has existed for 80 years and is one of the most widely used of all current vaccines, reaching >80% of neonates and infants in countries where it is part of the national childhood immunization programme. BCG vaccine has a documented protective effect against meningitis and disseminated TB in children. It does not prevent primary infection and, more importantly, does not prevent reactivation of latent pulmonary infection, the principal source of bacillary spread in the community. The impact of BCG vaccination on transmission of Mtb is therefore limited.

The biological interaction between Mtb and the human host is complex and only partially understood. Recent advances in areas such as mycobacterial immunology and genomics have stimulated research on numerous new experimental vaccines, but it is unlikely that any of these urgently needed vaccines will be available for routine use within the next few years. In the meantime, optimal utilization of BCG is encouraged.

Although BCG vaccine is of proven efficacy in the control of leprosy and probably also protects against Buruli ulcer, these aspects are outside the scope of this policy paper. The same pertains to the use of BCG in the treatment of bladder cancer. 2


In countries with a high burden of TB, a single dose of BCG vaccine should be given to all infants as soon as possible after birth. Since severe adverse effects of BCG vaccination are extremely rare even in asymptomatic, HIV-positive infants, all healthy neonates should be BCG-vaccinated, even in areas endemic for HIV. However, where resources permit, long-term follow-up of BCG-vaccinated infants of known HIV-positive mothers is desirable for early treatment, should disseminated BCG disease occur in children with rapid development of immunodeficiency.

Infants and children with symptomatic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or those known to have other immunodeficiency states should not be BCGvaccinated. In cases where infants have been exposed to smear-positive pulmonary TB shortly after birth, BCG vaccination should be delayed until completion of 6 months of prophylactic isoniazid treatment.

Countries with a low burden of TB may choose to limit BCG vaccination to neonates and infants of recognized high-risk groups for the disease or to skin-testnegative older children. In some low-burden populations, BCG vaccination has been largely replaced by intensified case detection and supervised early treatment.

BCG vaccination of adults is not normally recommended but may be considered for tuberculin-negative persons in unavoidable and close contact with cases of multidrug-resistant Mtb. There is no proven benefit of repeated BCG vaccination against TB. The BCG vaccine should be manufactured according to the current recommendations published in the report of the WHO Expert Committee on Biological Standardization.

Until an improved TB vaccine becomes available, efforts to control the spread of TB will continue to rely on currently available tools, namely early diagnosis, directly observed therapy and appropriate preventive treatment, as well as on public health and infection control measures.

Improved TB vaccines are widely seen as a key element for successful TB control, and the development of efficient, safe and affordable vaccines against TB must remain a global priority. 2

International Standards For Tuberculosis Care
Section on Standards for Public Health and Prevention 3

If you have more detailed questions, Ask OSAP recommends that you contact the WHO directly:

Global TB Programme
For all enquiries
Please contact:
Hannah Monica Dias
Information and Technical Officer
Global TB Programme
World Health Organization
20 avenue Appia
1211 Geneva 27
Tel: +41-22 791 4695
E-mail update on TB news
If you wish to receive an update on TB news you may subscribe to the WHO Global TB Programme E-Newsletter produced quarterly during the first week of the publishing months.
To subscribe, please send an email to

For WHO documents on TB
Please contact:
Global TB Programme Information Resource Centre
World Health Organization
20 avenue Appia
1211 Geneva 27
Email: 4


1) World Health Organization. Tuberculosis. Accessed on March 24, 2015.

2) World Health Organization. Vaccine Position Papers. Accessed on March 24, 2015.

3) World Health Organization. International Standards For Tuberculosis Care. Accessed On March 24, 2015.

4) World Health Organization. Global TB Programme. Accessed on March 24, 2015.



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