Primary Care Screening and Treatment for Latent Tuberculosis Infection in Adults: Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2016 Sep 6;316(9):970-83. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.10357.


Importance: Five to ten percent of individuals with latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) progress to active tuberculosis (TB) disease. Identifying and treating LTBI is a key component of the strategy for reducing the burden of TB disease.

Objective: To review the evidence about targeted screening and treatment for LTBI among adults in primary care settings to support the US Preventive Services Task Force in updating its 1996 recommendation.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and trial registries, searched through August 3, 2015; references from pertinent articles; and experts. Literature surveillance was conducted through May 31, 2016.

Study selection: English-language studies of LTBI screening, LTBI treatment with recommended pharmacotherapy, or accuracy of the tuberculin skin test (TST) or interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs). Studies of individuals for whom LTBI screening and treatment is part of public health surveillance or disease management were excluded.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two investigators independently reviewed abstracts and full-text articles. When at least 3 similar studies were available, random-effects meta-analysis was used to generate pooled estimates of outcomes.

Main outcomes and measures: Sensitivity, specificity, reliability, active TB disease, mortality, hepatotoxicity, and other harms.

Results: The review included 72 studies (n = 51 711). No studies evaluated benefits and harms of screening compared with no screening. Pooled estimates for sensitivity of the TST at both 5-mm and 10-mm induration thresholds were 0.79 (5-mm: 95% CI, 0.69-0.89 [8 studies, n = 803]; 10 mm: 95% CI, 0.71-0.87 [11 studies; n = 988]), and those for IGRAs ranged from 0.77 to 0.90 (57 studies; n = 4378). Pooled estimates for specificity of the TST at the 10-mm and 15-mm thresholds and for IGRAs ranged from 0.95 to 0.99 (34 studies; n = 23 853). A randomized clinical trial (RCT) of 24 weeks of isoniazid in individuals with pulmonary fibrotic lesions and LTBI (n = 27 830) found a reduction in absolute risk of active TB at 5 years from 1.4% to 0.5% (relative risk [RR], 0.35 [95% CI, 0.24-0.52]) and an increase in absolute risk for hepatoxicity from 0.1% to 0.5% (RR, 4.59 [95% CI, 2.03-10.39]) for 24 weeks of daily isoniazid compared with placebo. An RCT (n = 6886) found that 3 months of once-weekly rifapentine plus isoniazid was noninferior to 9 months of isoniazid alone for preventing active TB. The risk difference for hepatoxicity comparing isoniazid with rifampin ranged from 3% to 7%, with a pooled RR of 3.29 (95% CI, 1.72-6.28 [3 RCTs; n = 1327]).

Conclusions and relevance: No studies evaluated the benefits and harms of screening compared with no screening. Both the TST and IGRAs are moderately sensitive and highly specific within countries with low TB burden. Treatment reduced the risk of active TB among the populations included in this review. Isoniazid is associated with higher rates of hepatotoxicity than placebo or rifampin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Latent Tuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tuberculin Test


  • Antitubercular Agents