Background: The ability to detect tuberculosis-specific lymphocytes by enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay may have important implications for the diagnosis and monitoring of tuberculosis in children, for which routine methods lack sensitivity. We conducted a study to determine the presence and time course of ELISPOT responses in children with tuberculosis.
Methods: Blood samples were obtained from children with a clinical diagnosis of tuberculosis, and interferon-gamma ELISPOT assays were performed using purified protein derivative (PPD), early secretory antigenic target 6 (ESAT-6), and culture filtrate protein 10 (CFP10) as stimulants. A subset of children were retested after 1, 3, and 6 months of therapy.
Results: Detectable responses to ESAT-6 or CFP10 were found in 49 of 70 children with clinical tuberculosis but were more frequently found in those with culture-proven disease (P = .05). The number of subjects with responses to PPD increased after 1 month of therapy (P = .0004) and decreased at 3 and 6 months.
Conclusion: Tuberculosis-specific ELISPOT testing is a promising tool that should be evaluated as a potential diagnostic test for childhood tuberculosis. We caution against the use of an early decrease in response as a marker of successful antituberculous chemotherapy.