Predicting the development of tuberculosis with the tuberculin skin test and QuantiFERON testing

Neus Altet, José Dominguez, Maria Luiza De Souza-Galvão, M. Ángeles Jiménez-Fuentes, Célia Milà, Jordi Solsona, Antonio Soriano-Arandés, Irene Latorre, Elisa Lara, Adela Cantos, María Dolores Ferrer, Àngels Orcau, Juan Ruiz-Manzano, Joan Caylà

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Copyright © 2015 by the American Thoracic Society. Rationale: The identification of patients with latent tuberculosis infection, who are at higher risk to develop active disease, is an important component of disease control. Objectives: We aim to compare the usefulness of the QuantiFERON-TB Gold in-tube assay and the tuberculin skin test to predict the development of active tuberculosis during follow-up, using positive and negative predictive values, positive likelihood ratios, and stratified level of risk. Methods: The study included contacts of tuberculosis cases diagnosed between 2007 and 2009. All contacts included were from the first circle of exposure. Tuberculin skin test and QuantiFERON test were performed and a chest radiograph was obtained during the contact's study. Measurements and Main Results: A total of 1,335 contacts were followed up for 4 years: a smear-positive index case was identified for 937 contacts, of whom 15 developed active tuberculosis and had initially presented with positive tuberculin skin test/QuantiFERON results, a normal chest radiograph, and no symptoms. The positive predictive value was 4% for QuantiFERON and 2% for the tuberculin skin test (when ≥5 mm). The probability of developing active disease was 2.36 times higher with a positive QuantiFERON, and 1.3 times higher with a positive tuberculin skin test. The positive predictive value was 17%, and the positive likelihood ratio was 7.53 for untreated contacts with a positive QuantiFERON. Stratifying according to initial QuantiFERON results showed a 6.36 times higher risk of developing active tuberculosis for patients with a QuantiFERON result greater than or equal to 10 IU/ml. Among bacillus Calmette-Guérin - vaccinated patients, a tuberculin skin test induration greater than or equal to 15 mm correlated better with a positive QuantiFERON. Conclusions: QuantiFERON results were more accurate than tuberculin skin test results in predicting tuberculosis. Although all contacts with QuantiFERON-positive results are at risk of developing tuberculosis, those with a tuberculin skin test induration greater than or equal to 15 mm and QuantiFERON greater than or equal to 10 IU/ml are at highest risk. This has important implications in the clinical management of tuberculosis contacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-688
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • IFN-γ
  • Release assays
  • Tuberculosis
  • Tuberculosis development


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