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Free Content Performance of whole blood IFN-γ test for tuberculosis diagnosis based on PPD or the specific antigens ESAT-6 and CFP-10

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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the QuantiFERON-TB® test in BCG-vaccinated, non-BCG-vaccinated and tuberculosis (TB) patient donor groups, and to compare its diagnostic performance with that of a blood test based on the Mycobacterium tuberculosis specific antigens ESAT-6 and CFP-10.

DESIGN: Analysis of the IFN-γ responses of whole blood cells from BCG-vaccinated or non-BCG-vaccinated donors or patients with tuberculosis, stimulated with PPD, ESAT-6 or CFP-10 antigens, and evaluation of the specificity and sensitivity of the test.

RESULTS: None of the non-vaccinated donors showed positive responses to M. tuberculosis-PPD, ESAT-6 or CFP-10. In BCG-vaccinated donors, 9/19 (47%) donors responded to the QuantiFERON-TB® test based on M. tuberculosis-PPD, whereas 2/19 (10.5%) responded to either ESAT-6 or CFP-10. Comparable levels of sensitivity were obtained with the QuantiFERON-TB® test based on M. tuberculosis-PPD (79%) and ESAT-6 or CFP-10 antigens (72%).

CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrate that the whole blood test based on M. tuberculosis-PPD did not efficiently distinguish BCG-vaccinated donors from individuals with disease due to M. tuberculosis. The introduction of new recombinant antigens specific for M. tuberculosis, such as ESAT-6 or CFP-10, should increase the specificity of the whole blood test and enable discrimination between TB infection, atypical mycobacterial reactivity and reactivity due to BCG vaccination. Such a test would provide a quantum improvement over the current practice of using the tuberculin skin test for TB control and elimination.
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Keywords: M. tuberculosis; tuberculosis; tuberculosis diagnosis; whole blood test: IFN-

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Tuberculosis Immunology, Statens Serum Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark 2: Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: 2001-05-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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