Background: To evaluate interleukin (IL)-2 and interferon (IFN)-γ secreting T-cells in parallel for the differentiation of latent infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection (LTBI) from active tuberculosis.
Methods: Following ex-vivo stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) with M. tuberculosis-specific antigens early secretory antigenic target (ESAT)-6 and culture filtrate protein (CFP)-10, immune responses were assessed by enzyme-linked immunospot IFN-γ release assay (EliSpot-IGRA) and a novel dual cytokine detecting fluorescence-linked immunospot (FluoroSpot) in 18 patients with pulmonary tuberculosis, 10 persons with previously cured tuberculosis, 25 individuals with LTBI and 16 healthy controls.
Results: Correlation of IFN-γ+ spot-forming cells in EliSpot-IGRA and FluoroSpot were R2 = 0.67 for ESAT-6 and R2 = 0.73 for CFP-10. The number of IL-2- IFN-γ+ producing cells was higher in patients with tuberculosis compared with past tuberculosis (CFP-10-induced p = 0.0068) or individuals with LTBI (ESAT-6-induced p = 0.0136). A cutoff value of >16 CFP-10-induced IFN-γ+ secreting cells/200.000 PBMC in the EliSpot-IGRA discriminated with highest sensitivity and specificity (89% and 76%, respectively). However, overlap in cytokine responses precludes distinction between the cohorts on an individual basis.
Conclusions: Combined analysis of IFN-γ and IL-2 secretion by antigen specific T-cells does not allow a reliable differentiation between different states of M. tuberculosis infection in clinical practice.