Background: The whole-blood interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) is recommended in some settings as an alternative to the tuberculin skin test (TST). Outcomes from field implementation of the IGRA for routine tuberculosis (TB) testing have not been reported. We evaluated feasibility, acceptability, and costs after 1.5 years of IGRA use in San Francisco under routine program conditions.
Methods: Patients seen at six community clinics serving homeless, immigrant, or injection-drug user (IDU) populations were routinely offered IGRA (Quantiferon-TB). Per guidelines, we excluded patients who were <17 years old, HIV-infected, immunocompromised, or pregnant. We reviewed medical records for IGRA results and completion of medical evaluation for TB, and at two clinics reviewed TB screening logs for instances of IGRA refusal or phlebotomy failure.
Results: Between November 1, 2003 and February 28, 2005, 4143 persons were evaluated by IGRA. 225(5%) specimens were not tested, and 89 (2%) were IGRA-indeterminate. Positive or negative IGRA results were available for 3829 (92%). Of 819 patients with positive IGRA results, 524 (64%) completed diagnostic evaluation within 30 days of their IGRA test date. Among 503 patients eligible for IGRA testing at two clinics, phlebotomy was refused by 33 (7%) and failed in 40 (8%). Including phlebotomy, laboratory, and personnel costs, IGRA use cost $33.67 per patient tested.
Conclusion: IGRA implementation in a routine TB control program setting was feasible and acceptable among homeless, IDU, and immigrant patients in San Francisco, with results more frequently available than the historically described performance of TST. Laboratory-based diagnosis and surveillance for M. tuberculosis infection is now possible.