Send to

Choose Destination
Commun Dis Intell Q Rep. 2017 Dec 1;41(4):E322-E336.

Position statement on interferon-γ release assays for the detection of latent tuberculosis infection.

Author information

Microbiology Infectious Diseases (MID) Directorate, SA Pathology.
National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee.


Interferon-y release assays (IGRAs), such as the Quantiferon (QIFN) TB-Gold Plus assay (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany) and the T-SPOT.TB test (Oxford Immunotec Limited, Abingdon, United Kingdom), are marketed as a substitute for the tuberculin skin test (TST) for the detection of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). The relative merits of IGRAs and TST have been hotly debated over the last decade. The specificity of IGRAs has been optimised by using Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific antigens. However, IGRAs are functional in vitro T-cell-based assays that may lack reproducibility due to specimen collection, transport, processing and kit manufacturing issues. Longitudinal studies comparing the ability of IGRAs and TST to predict the future development of active tuberculosis disease (TB) are the ultimate arbiters on the respective utility of these assays. Three meta-analyses addressing this comparison have now been published and clinical experience with IGRAs is accumulating. The systematic reviews show that IGRAs and TST have similar (but poor) ability to identify patients with LTBI at risk of developing active TB disease. The improved specificity of IGRAs however may reduce the number of patients requiring preventative therapy. Based on these meta-analyses, The National Tuberculosis Advisory Committee (NTAC) now recommends either TST or an IGRA for the investigation of LTBI in most circumstances. Both tests may be used in patients where the risk of progression to active TB disease is high and the disease sequelae potentially severe (eg. LTBI testing in immunocompromised patients or those commencing anti-tumour necrosis factor-ą (TNF) therapy). Neither test should be used in the investigation of active TB disease (though TST and/or IGRA may be used as supplementary tests in paediatric cases). The choice of test for serial testing in healthcare workers (HCWs) remains controversial. A preference remains for TST in this circumstance because IGRAs have been bedevilled by higher rates of reversions and conversions when used for serial testing. These recommendations supersede all previous NTAC IGRA statements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Office of Health Protection, Australian Government Department of Health
Loading ...
Support Center