Interferon-gamma (IFN-?) release assays (IGRAs) such as the Quantiferon Gold In-tube test are in vitro assays that measure IFN-? release from T cells in response to M. tuberculosis (Mtb)-specific antigens. Unlike the tuberculin skin test (TST), IGRA is specific and able to distinguish Mtb-infection from BCG vaccination. In this study we evaluated the concordance between TST and IGRA and the efficacy of IGRA in diagnosing new Mtb infection in household contacts (HHC) of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) cases. A total of 357 HHC of TB cases in Vitória, Brazil were studied. A TST was performed within 2 weeks following enrollment of the HHC and if negative a second TST was performed at 8-12 weeks. HHC were categorized as initially TST positive (TST+), persistently TST negative (TST-), or TST converters (TSTc), the latter representative of new infection. IGRA was performed at 8-12 weeks following enrollment and the test results were positive in 82% of TST+, 48% of TSTc, and 12% of TST-, indicating poor concordance between the two test results among HHC in each category. Evaluating CXCL10 levels in a subset of IGRA supernatants or lowering the IGRA cutoff value to define a positive test increased agreement between TST and IGRA test results. However, ROC curves demonstrated that this resulted in a trade-off between sensitivity and specificity of IGRA with respect to TST. Together, the findings suggest that until the basis for the discordance between TST and IGRA is fully understood, it may be necessary to utilize both tests to diagnose new Mtb infection in recently exposed HHC. Operationally, in IGRA negative HHC, it may be useful to employ a lower cutoff value for IGRA to allow closer monitoring for potential conversion.
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