Thirty-six, untreated borderline lepromatous/lepromatous (BL/LL) leprosy patients with an initial bacterial index (BI) of 4+ to 6+ were serially allocated to three treatment groups. Group I patients received a slightly modified WHO regimen (rifampin once a month, clofazimine and dapsone daily) and BCG intradermally (i.d.) (0.1 mg/per dose). Group II patients were administered the same MDT and Mycobacterium w (2 x 10(8)) killed bacilli/dose i.d., and Group III received the same MDT with 0.1 ml of distilled water i.d. Vaccination was repeated every 6 months. Biopsies were taken from the local site of vaccination and from a distant site, i.e., the back. The progress was monitored periodically by clinical, histopathological and bacterial (BI, mouse foot pad, ATP) parameters. Twenty-five patients had completed a follow up of more than 2 years. These included: 7 in Group I, 10 in Group II, and 8 in Group III. One patient of the MDT + BCG group who was progressing well dropped out after 28 months. In cases on combined chemotherapy and immunotherapy, no viable bacilli were demonstrable by mouse foot pad and ATP measurement after 6 months (at 12 months or afterward). However, in come of the control cases on MDT alone, viable bacilli could be detected even up to 18 months (by mouse foot pad) and 2 years (by ATP estimation). With 36 months of treatment, the mean BI decreased from 4.64+ to 1.66+ in the group on MDT alone (controls), 4.9+ to 0.08+ in the MDT + BCG group, and 4.75+ to 0 in the MDT+Mycobacterium w group. Compared with the MDT and MDT + BCG groups, the fall in the BI was significantly more in the MDT + Mycobacterium w group at 12, 18, and 24 months. While all of the cases in the Mycobacterium w groups became smear negative by 36 months, it took 42 months for all of the BCG group to achieve negativity. Immunotherapy appears to have a significant effect on the killing and clearance of bacilli and should be considered as an adjunct to chemotherapy, especially in bacilliferous lepromatous cases.