Use of the T-spot.TB test for the diagnosis of latent tuberculosis infection

  • Andrea Amodeo
  • Francesco Caccamo
  • Emanuela Fichera
  • Patrizia Grassi
  • Elena Grasso
  • Giuliana Guardo
  • Silvana Mastrojeni
  • Ildebrando Patamia
  • Vanessa Scriffignano
  • Agata Sciacca |
  • Giuseppe Nicoletti


Background:Tuberculosis (TB) represents a major health problem both in developing and both in industrialized countries.The identification of individuals latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) play a key role for the efficacy of TB control. These individuals with a latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI), especially those with high risk of reactivation (e.g. HIV + / AIDS-infected individuals, patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy and children younger than 5 years) could benefit from a preventive treatment with isoniazid reducing the risk of progression from LTBI to active TB. Until recently, detection of LTBI has relied on the tuberculin skin test (TST), but despite the widespread use in clinical practice,TST does not reliably diagnose LTBI because several drawbacks, e.g. lacking in specificity, particularly in who were exposed to non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) or were vaccinated with Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) In addition, in young subjects,TST sensitivity is hampered by impaired T cell function leading frequently to false negative results.These several drawbacks limit the use of TST for the diagnose an LTBI in patients who may benefit from preventive chemotherapy. On the other hand, an accurate diagnosis of LTBI avoid the over-treatment of those patients with a positive TST results but not latently infected with Mtb. Recently, new tests based on the detection of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) after stimulation with Mtb-specific antigens: Early secretory Antigenic Target-6 (ESAT-6) and Culture Filtrate Protein-10 (CFP-10) have been proposed for the diagnosis of active TB and LTBI. Methods: During the period from January 2009 to June 2009, in our laboratory 70 patients were tested with T-SPOT.TB (Oxford Immunotech, Abingdon, United Kingdom).We enrolled transplant patients and subjects ongoing transplant, patients immigrants from high prevalence TB countries, patients screened for immunosuppressive treatment, HIV / AIDS – infected individuals.We also tested 3 patients with clinical / radiological suspicion of active TB and 3 patients with positive tuberculin skin test and with a positive direct examination for mycobacteria in the urinary sediment. Results: In 2 patients with symptoms suggestive of TB in place,T-SPOT.TB showed a higher response of (IFN-g), more than 100 spots.Among individuals ongoing renal transplant, 6 patients tested T-SPOT.TB positive and 4 subjects were T.SPOT.TB -negative. Two patients with an autoimmune disease showed an high response to Mtb-specific antigens with T-SPOT.TB test tested before to start any treatment.T-SPOT.TB test tested strongly negative in 4 paediatric patients and in one HIV-infected individuals, regardless a positive response to a internal positive response (phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), suggesting a normal immune response. Conclusions:This preliminary data suggest that the T.SPOT.TB showed high sensitivity and specificity, producing a strongly negative response to Mtb-specific antigens in subjects who had a history of previous BCG-vaccination. In addition, T-SPOT.TB test provides, unlike the TST, indication about the potential immunosuppression of tested patient with an internal positive control that can highlight the production of IFN- γ by lymphocytes resulting in the application of this test in immunocompromised patients, e.g. children and transplantated patients and others.



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Original Articles
diagnosis of tuberculosis, T-spot
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How to Cite
Amodeo, A., Caccamo, F., Fichera, E., Grassi, P., Grasso, E., Guardo, G., Mastrojeni, S., Patamia, I., Scriffignano, V., Sciacca, A., & Nicoletti, G. (2010). Use of the T-spot.TB test for the diagnosis of latent tuberculosis infection. Microbiologia Medica, 25(3).

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