Background: Lithuania is a country with a high incidence of tuberculosis (TB), despite a high coverage with bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination. Until now the only method used to detect latent TB infection was the tuberculin skin test (TST). However, TST may have a cross reactivity to the BCG vaccine and to environmental mycobacteria. The aim of this study was to conduct assessments of the diagnostic accuracy of the T-cell based test (T SPOT TB) for TB in children who had previously been BCG vaccinated and compare these with the results of the TST.
Methods: Between January 2005 and February 2007, children with bacteriologically confirmed TB, children having contacts with a case of infectious pulmonary TB and children without any known risk for TB were tested with both the TST and T SPOT TB.
Results: The TST and T SPOT TB tests were positive for all patients in the "culture-confirmed TB" group. Whereas, in the "high risk for TB" group, the TST was positive for 60%, but the T SPOT TB test, only for 17.8%. Meanwhile the results for the "low risk for TB" group were 65.4% and 9.6%, respectively. A correlation between the TST and T SPOT TB was obtained in the "culture-confirmed TB" group where the TST > or =15 mm (r = 0.35, p < 0.001).
Conclusion: The T-cell based method is more objective than the TST for identifying latent TB infection in children who had been previously BCG vaccinated. This method could be useful in countries like Lithuania where there is a high incidence of TB despite a high coverage with BCG vaccination. It may also help to avoid unnecessary chemoprophylaxis when TST reactions are false-positive.