Setting: The paediatric oncology unit at Tygerberg Children's Hospital, South Africa.
Objectives: To assess the use of the tuberculin skin test (TST) and two commercial interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in children with cancer before initiating chemotherapy treatment.
Design: Prospective hospital-based study, including children newly diagnosed with cancer; all underwent TST and IGRA testing.
Results: Of the 34 children enrolled, seven (17.6%) tested positive with either test: TST (3/7, 8.8%), T-SPOT.TB (n = 6, 17.6%) and QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-G; n = 3, 8.8%). T-SPOT.TB assay results were negative in 17 (50.0%) and indeterminate in four (11.8%) children. Six T-SPOT.TB tests could not be completed due to low cell counts (<100,000 per well), and one clotted. QFT-G results were negative in 26 (76.5%) and indeterminate in five (14.7%).
Conclusions: TST and IGRAs were frequently discordant, with fewer positive results than expected. T-SPOT.TB produced more positive results, but inadequate cell counts were a particular problem. The sample size was too small to comment with confidence on test accuracy. All latent TB infection tests appear to perform sub-optimally in this group of children, and therefore none of them can be used in isolation to confirm or disprove TB infection.