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Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2011 Sep;30(9):754-8. doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e31821b8f54.

The tuberculin skin test is unreliable in school children BCG-vaccinated in infancy and at low risk of tuberculosis infection.

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  • 1First Nations and Inuit Health, Alberta Region, Canada.



The tuberculin skin test (TST) is often used to screen for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in school children, many of whom were bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG)-vaccinated in infancy. The reliability of the TST in such children is unknown.


TSTs performed in low-risk BCG-vaccinated and -nonvaccinated grade 1 and grade 6 First Nations (North American Indian) school children in the province of Alberta, Canada, were evaluated retrospectively. To further assess the specificity of the TST, BCG-vaccinated children with a positive TST (≥10 mm of induration) and no treatment of LTBI were administered a QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube test (QFT-GIT, Cellestis International).


A total of 3996 children, 2063 (51.6%) BCG-vaccinated and 1933 (48.4%) BCG-nonvaccinated, were screened for LTBI. Vaccinated children were more likely than nonvaccinated children to be TST positive (5.7% vs. 0.2%, P < 0.001). Vaccinated children with a positive TST were more likely to have a recent past TST as compared with those with a negative TST (6.8% versus 2.8%, P = 0.01). Among 65 BCG-vaccinated TST-positive children who underwent a QFT-GIT, only 5 (7.7%; 95% CI: 2.5%, 17.0%) were QFT-GIT positive. A TST of ≥15 mm was more likely to be associated with a positive QFT-GIT than a TST of 10 to 14 mm, 16.0% (95% CI: 4.5%, 36.1%) versus 2.5% (95% CI: 0.1%, 13.2%), P = 0.047.


The TST is unreliable in school children, BCG-vaccinated in infancy, and who are at low risk of infection. The QFT-GIT is a useful confirmatory test for LTBI in BCG-vaccinated TST-positive school children.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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