Detection of latent tuberculosis infection among migrant farmworkers along the US-Mexico border

BMC Infect Dis. 2016 Nov 3;16(1):630. doi: 10.1186/s12879-016-1959-3.


Background: Migrant farmworkers are among the highest-risk populations for latent TB infection (LTBI) in the United States with numerous barriers to healthcare access and increased vulnerability to infectious diseases. LTBI is usually diagnosed on the border using the tuberculin skin test (TST). QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT) also measures immune response against specific Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens. The objective of this study is to assess the comparability of TST and QFT-GIT to detect LTBI among migrant farmworkers on the border, as well as to examine the effects of various demographic and clinical factors on test positivity.

Methods: Participants were recruited using mobile clinics on the San Luis US-Mexico border and tested with QFT-GIT and TST. Demographic profiles and clinical histories were collected. Kappa coefficients assessed agreement between TST and QFT-GIT using various assay cutoffs. Logistic regression examined factors associated with positive TST or QFT-GIT results.

Results: Of 109 participants, 59 of 108 (55 %) were either TST (24/71, 34 %) or QFT-GIT (52/106, 50 %) positive. Concordance between TST and QFT-GIT was fair (71 % agreement, ĸ = 0.38, 95 % CI: 0.15, 0.61). Factors associated with LTBI positivity included smoking (OR = 1.26, 95 % CI-1.01-1.58) and diabetes/high blood sugar (OR = 0.70, 95 % CI = 0.51-0.98).

Discussion: Test concordance between the two tests was fair, with numerous discordant results observed. Greater proportion of positives detected using QFT-GIT may help avoid LTBI under-diagnosis. Assessment of LTBI status on the border provides evidence whether QFT-GIT should replace the TST in routine practice, as well as identifies risk factors for LTBI among migrant populations.

Keywords: Interferon-gamma release assay; Latent tuberculosis infection; Migrants; Tuberculin skin test.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Farmers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / epidemiology
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests / methods
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Latent Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tuberculin Test / methods
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult