Tuberculin skin test and QuantiFERON-Gold In Tube assay for diagnosis of latent TB infection among household contacts of pulmonary TB patients in high TB burden setting

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PLoS One


World Health Organization (WHO) recommends systematic screening of high-risk populations, including household contacts (HHCs) of adult pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) patients, as a key strategy for elimination of TB. QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT) assay and tuberculin skin test (TST) are two commonly used tools for the detection of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) but may yield differential results, affecting eligibility for TB preventive therapy.


A prospective cohort study of adult pulmonary TB patients and their HHCs were recruited in 2 cities of India, Pune and Chennai. HHCs underwent QFT-GIT (QIAGEN) and TST (PPD SPAN 2TU/5TU). A positive QFT-GIT was defined as value ≥0.35 IU/ml and a positive TST as an induration of ≥5 mm. A secondary outcome of TST induration ≥10mm was explored. Proportion positive by either or both assays, discordant positives and negatives were calculated; test concordance was assessed using percentage agreement and kappa statistics; and risk factors for concordance and discordance including age categories were assessed using logistic regression. Sensitivity and specificity was estimated by latent class model.


Of 1048 HHCs enrolled, 869 [median (IQR) age: 27 years (15-40)] had both TST and QFT-GIT results available and prevalence of LTBI by QFT-GIT was 54% [95% CI (51, 57)], by TST was 55% [95% CI (52, 58)], by either test was 74% [95% CI (71, 77) and by both tests was 35% [95% CI (31, 38)]. Discordance of TST+/QFT-GIT- was 21% while TST-/QFT-GIT+ was 26%. Poor to fair agreement occurred with TST 5mm or 10mm cutoff (60 and 61% agreement with kappa value of 0.20 and 0.25 respectively). Test agreement varied by age, TST strength and induration cut-off. In multivariate analysis, span PPD was a risk factor for QFT-GIT+ and TST- while absence of BCG scar was for TST+ and QFT-GIT-. Being employed and exposure to TB case outside the household case were associated with positivity by both the tests. Sensitivity of TST and QFT-GIT to diagnose LTBI was 77% and 69%. Probability of having LTBI was >90% when both tests were positive irrespective of exposure gradient.


Prevalence of LTBI among HHCs of adult pulmonary TB patients in India is very high and varies by test type, age, and exposure gradient. In our high TB burden setting, a strategy to treat all HHCs or a targeted strategy whereby an exposure index is used should be assessed in future preventive therapy and vaccine studies as HHCs have several factors that place them at high risk for progression to TB disease.

Chandrasekaran P, Mave V, Thiruvengadam K, Gupte N, Shivakumar SVBY, Hanna LE, Kulkarni V, Kadam D, Dhanasekaran K, Paradkar M, Thomas B, Kohli R, Dolla C, Bharadwaj R, Sivaramakrishnan GN, Pradhan N, Gupte A, Murali L, Valvi C, Swaminathan S, Gupta A; CTRIUMPH Study Team. Tuberculin skin test and QuantiFERON-Gold In Tube assay for diagnosis of latent TB infection among household contacts of pulmonary TB patients in high TB burden setting. PLoS One. 2018 Aug 1;13(8):e0199360. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199360. eCollection 2018. PMCID: PMC6070176.
  • Department of Clinical Research, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, Chennai, India.
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States of America.
  • Byramjee- Jeejeebhoy Government Medical College- Johns Hopkins University Clinical Research Site, Pune, India.
  • Johns Hopkins University-India office, Pune, India.
  • Department of Medicine, Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Government Medical College, Pune, India.
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, United States of America.
  • Department of Chest Medicine, Government Headquarters Hospital, Thiruvallur, India.
  • Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India.