Background: Confirming tuberculosis (TB) disease in suspects in resource limited settings is challenging and calls for the development of more suitable diagnostic tools. Different Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) infection phase-dependent antigens may be differentially recognized in infected and diseased individuals and therefore useful as diagnostic tools for differentiating between M.tb infection states. In this study, we assessed the diagnostic potential of 118 different M.tb infection phase-dependent antigens in TB patients and household contacts (HHCs) in a high-burden setting.
Methods: Antigens were evaluated using the 7-day whole blood culture technique in 23 pulmonary TB patients and in 19 to 21 HHCs (total n = 101), who were recruited from a high-TB incidence community in Cape Town, South Africa. Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) levels in culture supernatants were determined by ELISA.
Results: Eight classical TB vaccine candidate antigens, 51 DosR regulon encoded antigens, 23 TB reactivation antigens, 5 TB resuscitation promoting factors (rpfs), 6 starvation and 24 other stress response-associated TB antigens were evaluated in the study. The most promising antigens for ascertaining active TB were the rpfs (Rv0867c, Rv2389c, Rv2450c, Rv1009 and Rv1884c), with Areas under the receiver operating characteristics curves (AUCs) between 0.72 and 0.80. A combination of M.tb specific ESAT-6/CFP-10 fusion protein, Rv2624c and Rv0867c accurately predicted 73% of the TB patients and 80% of the non-TB cases after cross validation.
Conclusions: IFN-γ responses to TB rpfs show promise as TB diagnostic candidates and should be evaluated further for discrimination between M.tb infection states.