Scientific article

Does bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine prevent herpes simplex virus recurrences? A systematic review

Published inReviews in medical virology, vol. 31, no. 1, p. 1-9
Publication date2021-01
First online date2020-09-24

Recurrent infections with herpes simplex virus (HSV) in the orofacial (cold sores), ocular or genital region are common and sometimes disabling, calling for an effective preventive intervention. The bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine has beneficial off-target effects that might impact recurrence of HSV infections. In this systematic review, Medline, EMBASE, and PubMed were searched in June 2020; 16 articles were deemed relevant comprising eight animal and eight human studies (301 patients). In animals, BCG administration led to a 1.9 to 5.5-fold increase in survival rate following HSV challenge (vaginal, corneal, or intraperitoneal inoculation). This beneficial effect was influenced by the dose of BCG (higher better), mode of administration (intradermal better than intraperitoneal), and the interval between vaccination and viral challenge (at least 6 days required). In nonrandomized human studies (that failed to control for a placebo effect), BCG vaccination appeared beneficial in 78% of adults with recurrent herpes genitalis or labialis, with 37% being recurrence-free for an extended period, 41% experiencing less frequent or severe episodes, and only 22% reporting no change. This clinical benefit is consistent with the findings of immunological sub-studies. In the two studies restricted to recurrent herpes labialis, 94% appeared to benefit from BCG. The one randomized controlled trial used an intervention in the control group that has immunomodulatory effects thus limiting interpretation. In conclusion, BCG vaccine is a potential, safe, affordable and readily available candidate intervention to decrease the high burden of disease associated with HSV infection and recurrences, but properly controlled randomized trials are required.

  • Bacille Calmette-Guérin, Mycobacterium bovis
  • Cold sore
  • Herpes genitalis
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Prevention, secondary prophylaxis
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
PITTET, Laure, CURTIS, Nigel. Does bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine prevent herpes simplex virus recurrences? A systematic review. In: Reviews in medical virology, 2021, vol. 31, n° 1, p. 1–9. doi: 10.1002/rmv.2151
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
Secondary files (1)
ISSN of the journal1052-9276

Technical informations

Creation10/08/2021 9:41:00 AM
First validation10/08/2021 9:41:00 AM
Update time03/16/2023 2:43:02 AM
Status update03/16/2023 2:43:01 AM
Last indexation05/06/2024 10:00:21 AM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack