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Free Content Waning of the specific interferon-gamma response after years of tuberculosis infection

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HYPOTHESIS: Memory T-cell responses to specific antigens wane over time in subjects with tuberculosis (TB) infection.

SETTING: Accumulated evidence indicates that QuantiFERON®-TB Gold (QFT-G), a specific whole-blood interferon-gamma (IFN-) based assay, can detect recent TB infections with superior sensitivity and specificity.

OBJECTIVE: We applied this technique to the adult population of a Japanese community to determine its epidemiological usefulness.

METHOD: A total of 1559 subjects attending periodic health screening volunteered to participate in the study.

RESULTS: The QFT-G positive rates were 3.1% for those aged 40–49 years, 5.9% for those aged 50–59 and 9.8% for those aged 60–69. The expected infection prevalence estimated by the authors from a series of studies was 11.1%, 29.6% and 53.1% for those aged 40–49, 50–59 and 60–69 years, respectively. This wide gap between the expected and observed positivity suggests that the IFN- response waned substantially with time after infection. Those with X-rays suggestive of old TB lesions exhibited positivity rates well below 100%.

CONCLUSION: The specific IFN- response may wane considerably with time after infection. Longitudinal studies are required to investigate long-term dynamics of cell-mediated immunity in infected donors.

Keywords: diagnostic; epidemiology; interferon-gamma; tuberculin skin test; tuberculosis infection

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Research Institute of Tuberculosis, Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Tokyo, Japan; Leprosy Research Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan 2: Research Institute of Tuberculosis, Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Tokyo, Japan 3: Research Institute of Tuberculosis, Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Tokyo, Japan; Laboratory of Immunoregulation, Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences, Kitasato University, Tokyo, Japan

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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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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