Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Enferm Infecc Microbiol Clin. 2010 Apr;28(4):245-52. doi: 10.1016/j.eimc.2009.05.012. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Interferon gamma release assays: principles and practice.

Author information

  • 1Tuberculosis Research Unit, Department of Respiratory Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, UK.


The last decade has witnessed significant advances in mycobacterial genomics and cellular research which have resulted in the development of two new blood tests, the enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISpot) (TSPOT.TB, Oxford Immunotec, Oxford, UK) and the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) (QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube, Cellestis, Carnegie, Australia). These tests, which are collectively known as interferon gamma release assays (IGRAs), detect latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) by measuring interferon (IFN)-gamma release in response to antigens present in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but not bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine and most nontuberculous mycobacteria. This is done through enumeration of IFN-gamma-secreting T cells (ELISpot) or by measurement of IFN-gamma concentration (ELISA). The evidence base for these tests has expanded rapidly and now demonstrates that IGRAs are more specific than the tuberculin skin test (TST) as they are not confounded by previous BCG vaccination. In addition, with active tuberculosis (TB) as a surrogate for LTBI, it appears that the ELISA has a similar sensitivity to the TST, whereas the ELISpot is more sensitive. Using degree of exposure to TB as a surrogate for LTBI, both assays correlate at least as well with TB exposure as the TST. Recent longitudinal data have now demonstrated the prognostic power of positive IGRA results in recent contacts for the subsequent progression to active TB. Deployment of IGRAs, driven by new guidelines internationally, will impact on clinical practice in several ways. Their high specificity means that BCG-vaccinated individuals with a false-positive TST will not receive unnecessary preventive treatment, whereas improved sensitivity in individuals with weakened cellular immunity at highest risk of progressing to active TB (for example HIV-positive individuals) enables more reliable targeted testing and treatment of these vulnerable groups. The role of IGRAs in active TB is less clear but they may be useful as adjunctive tests in the diagnostic work-up of an individual with suspected TB. Finally, recent developments and future directions in IGRA development are reviewed.

Comment in

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

LinkOut - more resources

Full Text Sources

Other Literature Sources

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center