A place for neutrophils in the beneficial pathogen-agnostic effects of the BCG vaccine

Byron Brook, Frederick Schaltz-Buchholzer, Rym Ben-Othman, Tobias Kollmann, Nelly Amenyogbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The BCG vaccine has long been recognized for reducing the risk to suffer from infectious diseases unrelated to its target disease, tuberculosis. Evidence from human trials demonstrate substantial reductions in all-cause mortality, especially in the first week of life. Observational studies have identified an association between BCG vaccination and reduced risk of respiratory infectious disease and clinical malaria later in childhood. The mechanistic basis for these pathogen-agnostic benefits, also known as beneficial non-specific effects (NSE) of BCG have been attributed to trained immunity, or epigenetic reprogramming of hematopoietic cells that give rise to innate immune cells responding more efficiently to a broad range of pathogens. Furthermore, within trained immunity, the focus so far has been on enhanced monocyte function. However, polymorphonuclear cells, namely neutrophils, are not only major constituents of the hematopoietic compartment but functionally as well as numerically represent a prominent component of the immune system. The beneficial NSEs of the BCG vaccine on newborn sepsis was recently demonstrated to be driven by a BCG-mediated numeric increase of neutrophils (emergency granulopoiesis (EG)). And experimental evidence in animal models suggest that BCG can modulate neutrophil function as well. Together, these findings suggest that neutrophils are crucial to at least the immediate beneficial NSE of the BCG vaccine. Efforts to uncover the full gamut of mechanisms underpinning the broad beneficial effects of BCG should therefore include neutrophils at the forefront.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1534-1539
Number of pages6
Issue number11
Early online date15 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2022


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