Background: T-cell responses against dormancy-, resuscitation-, and reactivation-associated antigens of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are candidate biomarkers of latent infection in humans.
Methodology/principal findings: We established an assay based on two rounds of in vitro restimulation and intracellular cytokine analysis that detects T-cell responses to antigens expressed during latent M. tuberculosis infection. Comparison between active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) patients and healthy latently M. tuberculosis-infected donors (LTBI) revealed significantly higher T-cell responses against 7 of 35 tested M. tuberculosis latency-associated antigens in LTBI. Notably, T cells specific for Rv3407 were exclusively detected in LTBI but not in TB patients. The T-cell IFNgamma response against Rv3407 in individual donors was the most influential factor in discrimination analysis that classified TB patients and LTBI with 83% accuracy using cross-validation. Rv3407 peptide pool stimulations revealed distinct candidate epitopes in four LTBI.
Conclusions: Our findings further support the hypothesis that the latency-associated antigens can be exploited as biomarkers for LTBI.