Specific Detection of Tuberculosis Infection: An Interferon-γ-based Assay Using New Antigens

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The tuberculin skin test for immunologic diagnosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection has many limitations, including being confounded by bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination or exposure to nontuberculous mycobacteria. M. tuberculosis-specific antigens that are absent from BCG and most nontuberculous mycobacteria have been identified. We examined the use of two of these antigens, CFP-10 and ESAT-6, in a whole blood IFN-γ assay as a diagnostic test for tuberculosis in BCG-vaccinated individuals. Because of the lack of an accurate standard with which to compare new tests for M. tuberculosis infection, specificity of the whole blood IFN-γ assay was estimated on the basis of data from people with no identified risk for M. tuberculosis exposure (216 BCG-vaccinated Japanese adults) and sensitivity was estimated on the basis of data from 118 patients with culture-confirmed M. tuberculosis infection who had received less than 1 week of treatment. Using a combination of CFP-10 and ESAT-6 responses, the specificity of the test for the low-risk group was 98.1% and the sensitivity for patients with M. tuberculosis infection was 89.0%. The results demonstrate that the whole blood IFN-γ assay using CFP-10 and ESAT-6 was highly specific and sensitive for M. tuberculosis infection and was unaffected by BCG vaccination status.

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