Prevalence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection as measured by the QuantiFERON-TB Gold assay and ESAT-6 free IGRA among adolescents in Mwanza, Tanzania

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 7;16(6):e0252808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252808. eCollection 2021.


Background: The prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is vastly higher than that of tuberculosis (TB) disease and this enormous reservoir of individuals with LTBI impacts the global TB control strategy. Adolescents are at greatest risk of TB infection and are thus an ideal target population for a potential effective TB vaccine to be added to the current BCG programme as it could reduce the number of latent infections and consequently the number of adults with TB disease. However, LTBI rates are often unknown for this population. This study aims to estimate the magnitude of LTBI and to determine if Tanzanian adolescents would be a good population for a prevention of TB infection trial.

Methods: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study that recruited 193 adolescents aged 12 and 16 years from government schools and directly from the community in Mwanza Region, Tanzania. Socio-demographic characteristics were collected for all enrolled participants. Blood was drawn and tested using QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT), and Early Secretory Antigenic Target-6-Free Interferon-gamma Release Assay (ESAT-6 free IGRA). Concordance between QFT-GIT and ESAT-6 free IGRA was evaluated using the McNemar's test.

Results: Overall estimates of LTBI prevalence were 19.2% [95%CI, 14.1; 25.2] and 18.6% [95%CI, 13.6; 24.6] as measured by QFT-GIT IGRA and ESAT-6 free IGRA, respectively. The 16-year-old cohort had a higher LTBI prevalence (23.7% [95%CI, 16.1; 32.9]) as compared to 12-year-old cohort (14.6% [95%CI, 8.6; 22.7]) as measured by QFT-GIT IGRA. When measured by ESAT-6 Free IGRA, LTBI prevalence was 24.7% (95%CI, 16.9; 34.0) for the 16-year-old cohort and 12.5% (95%CI, 7.0; 20.3) among the 12-year-old cohort. According to both tests the prevalence of TB infection and the corresponding annual risk of tuberculosis infection (ARTI) and force of infection were high and increased with age. Of all enrolled participants, 97.4% had concordant results for QFT-GIT IGRA and ESAT-6 free IGRA (p = 0.65).

Conclusions: The prevalence of LTBI and the associated ARTI and force of infection among adolescents is high and increases with age in Mwanza Region. There was a high concordance between the QFT-GIT and the novel ESAT-6 free IGRA assays. These findings suggest Mwanza is a promising area to conduct novel TB vaccine research prevention of infection (POI) studies targeting adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests / methods*
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Latent Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Latent Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tanzania / epidemiology
  • Tuberculin Test / methods*
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines / immunology


  • Tuberculosis Vaccines

Grants and funding

This study was funded jointly by the Research Council of Norway, Global Health and Vaccination Research (GLOBVAC) project (248042), Statens Serum Institut and Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation NPC, (currently IAVI South Africa NPC). The project is also part of the EDCTP 2 programme supported by the European Union. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.