Role of QuantiFERON-TB gold, interferon gamma inducible protein-10 and tuberculin skin test in active tuberculosis diagnosis

PLoS One. 2010 Feb 4;5(2):e9051. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009051.


Background: The measurement of Interferon gamma or Interferon gamma inducible protein (IP)-10 in antigen stimulated blood samples is suggested as an alternative method for latent tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis. Nonetheless, their role in active TB diagnosis, particularly in TB endemic settings is yet to be defined. In this study, the sensitivities and specificities of Interferon gamma release assay (IGRA), IP-10 assay and tuberculin skin test (TST) in detecting active TB cases were assessed in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) sero-negative TB patients and healthy controls respectively.

Methods/principal findings: A total of 177 adult TB patients and 100 healthy controls were included for this study. QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-tube (QFT-IT) method was used to analyze the sensitivity and specificity of IGRA. QFT-IT, IP-10 and TST yielded the diagnostic sensitivities of 90.6% (95%CI: 86.3%-94.9%), 92.5% (95%CI: 88.6%-96.4%) and 68.9% (95%CI: 60.6%-77.2%) and specificities of 55% (95% CI: 35.2%-54.8%), 48% (95% CI: 38.2%-57.8%) and 75.5% (95% CI: 66.8%-84.2%), respectively. The extent of pulmonary involvement or presence of diabetes mellitus did not appear to influence the sensitivities of any of these tests. The combination of any of the two tests among QFT-IT, IP-10 and TST showed >98% sensitivity among smear negative cases and particularly the combination of IP-10, TST and smear microscopy showed 100% sensitivity, however, the specificity was decreased to 44.8%.

Conclusions/significance: QFT-IT and IP-10 were highly sensitive in detecting active TB cases. The combination with TST improved the sensitivity of QFT-IT and IP-10 significantly. Although the higher sensitivity of combination of QFT-IT/IP-10 and TST may be useful in active TB diagnosis, they are limited by their poor specificity due to the high prevalence of latent TB in our settings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • HIV Seronegativity
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Latent Tuberculosis / blood
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pyrimidinones / blood
  • Pyrimidinones / metabolism*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thiazoles / blood
  • Thiazoles / metabolism*
  • Tuberculin Test / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Pyrimidinones
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Thiazoles
  • Interferon-gamma
  • 5(4'-hydroxybenzylidenoimino)-3-methylisothiazolo(5,4-d)pyrimidine-(7H)-4,6-dione