The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Vaccine: Is it a better choice for the treatment of viral warts?

Asaad Q. Al-Yassen, Shukrya K. Al-Maliki, Jasim N. Al-Asadi


Objectives: This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine with topical salicylic acid (SA) in the treatment of viral warts. Methods: This non-randomised controlled trial was conducted at the Al-Sader Teaching Hospital, Basrah, Iraq, from January 2016 to April 2017. A total of 201 patients with viral warts were injected with an intradermal purified protein derivative. Subsequently, those with negative tuberculin test results received an intradermal BCG vaccination, while those with positive results underwent conventional treatment with topical SA. Patients were assessed for any signs of improvement at one, two and three months. Results: Overall, 190 patients completed the trial; of these, 133 (70%) received the BCG vaccine and 57 (30%) were treated with topical SA. Complete response to treatment was observed in 9.8% and 5.3% of patients in the BCG and SA groups, respectively (P <0.001). Cure rates were significantly higher for patients with genital (22.2% versus 7.7%; P = 0.002) and common warts (8.5% versus 0%; P = 0.001) treated with the BCG vaccine; however, the reverse was true for flat warts (12.9% versus 25%; P = 0.041). A binary logistic regression analysis indicated that BCG therapy was the only significant independent predictor of positive treatment response (odds ratio: 7.56, 95% confidence interval: 3.72–15.36; P <0.001). Conclusion: The BCG vaccine was more effective than topical SA for treating viral warts, with the best response noted in the treatment of genital warts, followed by flat warts. However, plantar warts demonstrated least response to this treatment.

Keywords: Human Papilloma Viruses; Warts; Immunotherapy; BCG Vaccine; Salicylic Acid; Clinical Trial; Treatment Effectiveness.

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Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Postal Code 123, Al-Khod, Muscat, Oman

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