Usefulness of interferon-gamma release assays for diagnosing TB infection and problems with these assays

J Infect Chemother. 2009 Jun;15(3):143-55. doi: 10.1007/s10156-009-0686-8. Epub 2009 Jun 25.


The specificity of the tuberculin skin test (TST) in the diagnosis of tuberculosis infection is seriously compromised because of extensive use of the bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination. The interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA), a new diagnostic using Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific antigens has been introduced in response to these needs. In this review, published findings on the performance of the QuantiFERON-TB (QFT), one of the IGRA formats, are summarized and discussed. In addition to its high specificity, the QFT has considerably high sensitivity, comparable with or superior to that of the TST, if applied to patients with active tuberculosis as a surrogate of latent tuberculosis infection. When applied to patients with immunosuppression, such as aging patients, or those with HIV infection, those with immunosuppressive drug therapies, or those with renal hemodialysis, QFT is shown to be more robust than the TST. As regards the dynamics of QFT responses to chemotherapy, there are many reports showing a decrease in responses during the treatment, which indicates the possibility that QFT could be used as a tool for monitoring the progress of treatment. However, there are discordant reports that warrant further study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens
  • Interferon-gamma