The creator of the Bulgarian BCG vaccine against tuberculosis

Dr. Srebra Rodopska is the creator of the Bulgarian vaccine against tuberculosis. Thanks to her research work, Bulgaria became the first country in Europe to introduce mandatory immunization of newborns, which led to a drastic drop in mortality and complications from tuberculosis.

Dr. Srebra Rodopska was born on April 17, 1913 in Sofia. He graduated in medicine in Sofia and started working at the Institute of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases. At that time, the “yellow guest”, as our people called tuberculosis, was widespread in Bulgaria, and the country was among the leaders in Europe in terms of mortality caused by the disease.

In the period 1948-1949, Dr. Rodopska did a specialization at the "Louis Pasteur" Institute, France. She returned with the first BCG strain, with which she began intense experimental work on introducing the live anti-tuberculosis vaccine into production. With the produced vaccine, which had proven immunizing ability, oral vaccination of newborn children in our country began, but purulent lymphadenitis was observed in 1% of immunized newborn children.

Dr. Rodopska then replaced the French BCG strain with the Moscow BCG I strain, which has lower residual virulence and high immunogenicity. She produces small batches whose properties are tested in laboratory conditions through control methods introduced by herself.

Since 1951, intradermal BCG immunization with the vaccine produced by Dr. Rodopska became mandatory for all newborns in Bulgaria. Thus, our country became the first in Europe and the second in the world after Japan to introduce this measure. The incidence of tuberculosis at all ages, especially severe forms in children, is sharply decreasing. After testing in WHO reference laboratories in Geneva, Canada and the USA, the Bulgarian vaccine began to be distributed on three continents.

The research of the team led by Dr. Rodopska continues on the properties of BCG strains and the improvement of the vaccine. Since 1964, only the lyophilized thermostable BCG vaccine, developed by Dr. Rodopska and T. Vitanov, has been administered.

The developments aroused keen interest at the First Technical Conference on the BCG vaccine in Geneva (1956) and at a number of scientific forums abroad. Of particular importance are the original precise studies that Dr. Rodopska presented at the International Symposium on BCG and Tuberculin organized in Budapest in 1973.  The experience and vast scientific knowledge of Dr. Rodopska enrich the production centers in Moscow, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, Tokyo in improving production and control methods.

Since 1991, the Bulgarian BCG production laboratory has been one of the three labs approved by the World Health Organisation as a supplier to UNICEF and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Today, the Bulgarian BCG vaccine is used in more than 180 countries in the world.