Evaluation of quantitative IFN-gamma response for risk stratification of active tuberculosis suspects

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Jan 1;181(1):87-93. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200906-0981OC. Epub 2009 Oct 1.


Rationale: The contribution of interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) to appropriate risk stratification of active tuberculosis suspects has not been studied.

Objectives: To determine whether the addition of quantitative IGRA results to a prediction model incorporating clinical criteria improves risk stratification of smear-negative-tuberculosis suspects.

Methods: Clinical data from tuberculosis suspects evaluated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health Tuberculosis Control Clinic from March 2005 to February 2008 were reviewed. We excluded tuberculosis suspects who were acid fast-bacilli smear-positive, HIV-infected, or under 10 years of age. We developed a clinical prediction model for culture-positive disease and examined the benefit of adding quantitative interferon (IFN)-gamma results measured by QuantiFERON-TB Gold (Cellestis, Carnegie, Australia).

Measurements and main results: Of 660 patients meeting eligibility criteria, 65 (10%) had culture-proven tuberculosis. The odds of active tuberculosis increased by 7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 3-11%) for each doubling of IFN-gamma level. The addition of quantitative IFN-gamma results to objective clinical data significantly improved model performance (c-statistic 0.71 vs. 0.78; P < 0.001) and correctly reclassified 32% of tuberculosis suspects (95% CI,11-52%; P < 0.001) into higher-risk or lower-risk categories. However, quantitative IFN-gamma results did not significantly improve appropriate risk reclassification beyond that provided by clinician assessment of risk (4%; 95% CI, -7 to +22%; P = 0.14).

Conclusions: Higher quantitative IFN-gamma results were associated with active tuberculosis, and added clinical value to a prediction model incorporating conventional risk factors. Although this benefit may be attenuated within highly experienced centers, the predictive accuracy of quantitative IFN-gamma levels should be evaluated in other settings.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology


  • Interferon-gamma