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expert reaction to study looking at the BCG vaccine and blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetes

A study published in npj Vaccines investigated the BCG vaccine and blood glucose control in patients with type 1 diabetes.


Prof Andrew Hattersley FRS, Professor of Molecular Medicine, University of Exeter Medical School, said:

“If a simple and safe BCG vaccination could improve glucose control in Type 1 diabetes it would be a major advance.  Unfortunately this study does not give any strong evidence to say this is the case.  They report the 8 year follow-up results from only 3 people with Type 1 diabetes who had the vaccine and 3 who did not.  This is far too small a number of people studied to suggest this should be considered a potential treatment for people living with Type 1 diabetes.”


Prof Daniel Davis, Professor of Immunology, University of Manchester, said:

“This is a very interesting study showing that the common and safe BCG vaccine usually given to protect against tuberculosis may also help patients with type I diabetes.

“Importantly though, this discovery does not yet lead to a definitive public health message for patients with diabetes – in part because relatively small numbers of patients have been studied here.  But the research does indicate a fascinating and important way in which the power of our immune system could be tweaked by exposure to BCG vaccination.

“More research should, and is, being done to establish definitely whether or not this could help patients with type I diabetes, and maybe even other autoimmune diseases.”


Prof Helen McShane, Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford, said:

“The finding that two doses of BCG, a safe vaccine that is almost 100 years old, can significantly improve the control of blood glucose in patients with established Type-1 diabetes, is very exciting.

“This well conducted study provides data to support a plausible immunological mechanism for this durable effect, and adds to an increasing body of knowledge on the effects of BCG on auto-immune diseases.

“The effects observed here, which intriguingly increase over time, may provide a highly cost-effective way to reduce the significant morbidity and mortality associated with this disease.”


* ‘Long-term reduction in hyperglycemia in advanced type 1 diabetes: the value of induced aerobic glycolysis with BCG vaccinations’ by Willem M. Kühtreiber et al. was published in npj Vaccines on Thursday 21 June 2018.


Declared interests

Prof Daniel Davis: “Author of The Beautiful Cure (which discusses autoimmune diseases).”

Prof Helen McShane: “I have no conflicts of interest.”

None others received.

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