Diagnosis of latent tuberculosis: Can we do better?

Al-Orainey, Ibrahim O.
January 2009
Annals of Thoracic Medicine;Jan2009, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p5
Academic Journal
Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is often diagnosed by the tuberculin skin test (TST). The latter has several limitations with regard to its sensitivity and specificity. It may be positive in people with prior bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination or exposure to nontuberculous mycobacteria. False negative TST results frequently occur in patients with impaired T-cell function. Therefore TST results have to be interpreted taking into consideration the pretest risk of TB infection or reactivation. Recently, interferon gamma release assays (IGRA) were introduced for the diagnosis of LTBI. These include the T-SPOT-TB and the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold tests .These tests measure interferon gamma released in response to T-cell stimulation by specific Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens. These tests have been shown to be more specific than the TST as they are not affected by BCG vaccination. Their sensitivity was similar to that of the TST and in some studies they correlated better with the degree of exposure. In immune-compromised patients their sensitivity was better than that of the TST. IGRA tests were shown to have better predictive value for the development of active disease among individuals with LTBI. These tests are expensive. Their most cost-effective utilization is as confirmatory tests in patients with positive TST results, particularly in areas with high rates of BCG vaccination.


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