Tuberculosis infection and anergy in hemodialysis patients

Am J Kidney Dis. 1998 May;31(5):848-52. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(98)70055-1.


Patients on hemodialysis are at increased risk for developing active tuberculosis (TB) after primary infection. Although this increased risk is well documented, the prevalence of TB infection, as indicated by a positive tuberculin skin test (TST), is not well described. End-stage renal disease is also known to be a risk factor for skin test anergy, but the rate of anergy in hemodialysis patients is unclear. We sought to identify rates of anergy and TST positivity in patients at four hemodialysis units in St Louis, Missouri, from June 1996 through August 1996. Data obtained from patients and medical records included age, years on hemodialysis, medical history, and basic laboratory data. Patients without a history of TB or a positive TST had a TST with Tubersol, as well as candida and tetanus controls, placed by the Mantoux method. Tests were read 48 hours later. Of the patients enrolled at these units, 307 of 331 (93%) were evaluated. Patients had a mean age of 58 years (range, 19 to 91 years) and had been on hemodialysis for a mean of 3.7 years (range, 1 week to 18.7 years). Blacks made up 81% of the population. A history of a positive TST was obtained from 24 patients (8%), and an additional seven (2%) had a history of active TB. Of the 276 patients tested, 93 did not respond to either control antigen, but five of these patients had a positive TST, leaving 88 (32%) anergic. Anergy was related to age, immunosuppressive drug use, and the reagents used, but not to urea reduction ratio. Positive TSTs were found in 17 of 188 of nonanergic patients (9%) (6% of all tested patients). Overall, 48 of 307 patients (16%) had a positive TST or history of TB. TB or a positive TST was associated with liver disease and peptic ulcer disease, but not socioeconomic status. All 17 newly identified TST-positive patients received chest radiographs. No new cases of active TB were found. Only two of 17 of these patients (12%) were started on isoniazid (INH) prophylaxis. We identified high rates of TST positivity and anergy in the hemodialysis patients tested. Hemodialysis patients should receive regular TST screening, and INH prophylaxis needs to be more strongly encouraged. Studies are ongoing to define the rate of TST conversion over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, Fungal / immunology
  • Blacks
  • Candida / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / immunology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis* / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Tetanus Toxoid / immunology
  • Tuberculin Test*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology*


  • Antigens, Fungal
  • Tetanus Toxoid