Infection free "resisters" among household contacts of adult pulmonary tuberculosis

PLoS One. 2019 Jul 18;14(7):e0218034. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218034. eCollection 2019.


Despite substantial exposure to infectious pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) cases, some household contacts (HHC) never acquire latent TB infection (LTBI). Characterizing these "resisters" can inform who to study immunologically for the development of TB vaccines. We enrolled HHCs of culture-confirmed adult pulmonary TB in India who underwent LTBI testing using tuberculin skin test (TST) and QuantiFERON TB Gold Test-in-tube (QFT-GIT) at baseline and, if negative by both (<5mm TST and <0.35IU/mL QFT-GIT), underwent follow-up testing at 4-6 and/or 12 months. We defined persons with persistently negative LTBI tests at both baseline and followup as pLTBI- and resisters as those who had a high exposure to TB using a published score and remained pLTBI-. We calculated the proportion of resisters overall and resisters with complete absence of response to LTBI tests (0mm TST and/or QFT-GIT <0.01 IU/ml). Using random effects Poisson regression, we assessed factors associated with pLTBI-. Of 799 HHCs in 355 households, 67 (8%) were pLTBI- at 12 months; 52 (6.5%) pLTBI- in 39 households were resisters. Complete absence of response to LTBI tests was found in 27 (53%) resisters. No epidemiological characteristics were associated with the pLTBI- phenotype. LTBI free resisters among HHC exist but are uncommon and are without distinguishing epidemiologic characteristics. Assessing the genetic and immunologic features of such resister individuals is likely to elucidate mechanisms of protective immunity to TB.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Disease Resistance / immunology*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Latent Tuberculosis* / diagnosis
  • Latent Tuberculosis* / epidemiology
  • Latent Tuberculosis* / immunology
  • Male
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / immunology