Tuberculosis after liver transplantation in a large center in New York City: QuantiFERON® -TB Gold-based pre-transplant screening performance and active tuberculosis post-transplant

Transpl Infect Dis. 2018 Apr;20(2):e12845. doi: 10.1111/tid.12845. Epub 2018 Feb 19.


Introduction: Pre-transplant screening for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is a complex consideration that varies by institution. Inconsistent performance of interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) further complicates screening. Data regarding LTBI screening outcomes and test characteristics in a large, foreign-born pre-transplant population within the United States are limited.

Methods: In this retrospective study, patients who received QuantiFERON® -TB Gold (QFT) prior to liver transplantation (LT) were included. Characteristics of patients were compared by QFT result, and predictors of indeterminate results were evaluated. Similar comparisons were performed between patients who developed active TB and those who did not.

Results: Of 148 patients screened, the rate of positive, indeterminate, and negative testing was 13.5% (20/148), 27% (40/148), and 59% (88/148), respectively. An indeterminate QFT result was more than 16 times more likely in patients with a Model for End-stage Liver Disease score >25 (odds ratio [OR] 16.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.1-132.0; P = .008) and more than 4 times when performed in our institution's lab compared with commercial lab (OR 4.1; 95% CI, 1.34-12.44; P = .013). The overall TB incidence was 1102/100 000 transplant cases. No patient who developed active TB had a positive QFT. All were born outside of the United States (P = .06) and had pre-transplantation chest imaging demonstrating granulomatous disease (P = .006).

Conclusion: Our experience further highlights the challenges of LTBI screening prior to LT and suggests that QFT may be a poor predictor of active TB in higher risk pre-transplant populations. Candidates should be screened as early as possible to optimize QFT performance, and local epidemiological data should be used to create institution-specific screening protocols in areas with large populations from TB-endemic regions. Management should consider TB risk factors, QFT, and imaging instead of reliance on QFT testing alone.

Keywords: QuantiFERON®-TB Gold; interferon-gamma release assay; latent tuberculosis infection; liver transplant; solid organ transplant; tuberculosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests / methods*
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies