Serological response of tuberculosis patients to antigen 60 of BCG

Eur J Epidemiol. 1992 Sep;8(5):666-76. doi: 10.1007/BF00145382.


Two ELISA tests (IgG and IgM) for the serodiagnosis of tuberculosis, both based on antigen 60 (A60) of M. bovis BCG, were applied to 1,644 controls and patients to analyse the immune response in different forms of this infectious disease. Out of 200 healthy individuals, 148 being tuberculin--positive BCG-vaccinated adults, only 10 contacts--nurses of the pneumology department and laboratory technicians of the mycobacterial laboratory--were found positive for anti-A60 IgG. One quarter of hospitalized patients affected by non-tuberculous pneumopathies (194 in total) were found weakly positive for anti-A60 IgG. We suppose that these positive cases have suffered from inapperant infections and are in a "persistent state". Out of 344 cases of primary pulmonary tuberculosis, 88% were positive for anti-A60 IgG and 75% for the corresponding IgM. Among 97 cases of primary extra-pulmonary tuberculosis, 94% were found IgG positive and 33% IgM positive. The difference between active and inactive post-primary (chronic) tuberculosis was striking: about 100% of both pulmonary and extra-pulmonary cases (367 altogether) had high titers of anti-A60 IgG but IgM positivity was observed in only 15% of the cases, whereas in inactive and quiescent noncavitary tuberculosis (442 cases), 57% of the patients were weakly positive for anti-A60 IgG and none were positive for IgM. Kinetics of synthesis of anti-A60 IgG and IgM were analysed in primary and post-primary (chronic) active tuberculosis. The IgM tracing immune response to A60 was shorter and lower during primary tuberculosis as compared to post-primary tuberculosis. Our findings point to the high prognostic value of the A60- ELISA test for tuberculosis. Anti-A60 IgM mark initial stages of the disease or reactivation processes whereas anti-A60 IgG last longer than IgM and provide an evaluation of the intensity of the infectious process. Repeated serological tests allow monitoring of the course of the infection and the efficacy of therapy. The test is negative in healthy BCG-vaccinated persons (tuberculin-positive) and healed tuberculous infection cases. The combined use of both IgG and IgM tests helps in the correct diagnosis of "false positive" cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Bacterial*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin M / analysis
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases / immunology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins*
  • Mycobacterium bovis / immunology*
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Pleural / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pleural / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Renal / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Renal / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • mycobacterial A60 antigen