Guidelines on interferon-γ release assays for tuberculosis infection: concordance, discordance or confusion?

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011 Jun;17(6):806-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2011.03555.x.


Identification of latent tuberculosis (TB) infection and preventive therapy is important for TB control, especially in high-risk populations. Since the advent of interferon-γ release assays (IGRAs), many studies have evaluated their role in the diagnosis of active and latent TB. With the growing evidence base, many guidelines now include IGRAs. We surveyed the literature and contacted experts to identify 33 guidelines and position papers from 25 countries and two supranational organizations. The results show considerable diversity in the recommendations on IGRAs, with four approaches commonly proposed: (i) two-step approach of tuberculin skin test (TST) first, followed by IGRA either when the TST is negative (to increase sensitivity, mainly in immunocompromised individuals), or when the TST is positive (to increase specificity, mainly in bacillus Calmette-Guérin-vaccinated individuals); (ii) Either TST or IGRA, but not both; (iii) IGRA and TST together (to increase sensitivity); and (iv) IGRA only, replacing the TST. Overall, the use of IGRAs is increasingly recommended, but most of the current guidelines do not use objective, transparent methods to grade evidence and recommendations, and do not disclose conflicts of interests. Future IGRA guidelines must aim to be transparent, evidence-based, periodically updated, and free of financial conflicts and industry involvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Interferons / metabolism
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*


  • Interferons