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May 5, 2004

A Booster for Tuberculosis Vaccines

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

JAMA. 2004;291(17):2127-2128. doi:10.1001/jama.291.17.2127

In 1935, a cohort of Native Americans began to enroll in an experiment designed to address a topic about which everybody was unsure, if not entirely ignorant: the efficacy of BCG vaccination against tuberculosis (TB). In the early 1930s, 2 decades before the advent of combination chemotherapy, 65 of every 10 000 Alaska Natives and Eskimos died of TB each year.1 For those unfortunate enough to develop active disease following infection, the principal remedies were fresh air and hope. With a case-fatality rate of about 50%, the prognosis for patients with TB was grim.

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