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Medicina (Buenos Aires)

Print version ISSN 0025-7680On-line version ISSN 1669-9106


DE KANTOR, Isabel N.  and  RITACCO, Viviana. Is the tuberculin skin test still suitable to diagnose tuberculosis infection?. Medicina (B. Aires) [online]. 2009, vol.69, n.3, pp.359-369. ISSN 0025-7680.

Tuberculosis (TB) infection is currently being diagnosed by the tuberculin skin test (TST) with PPD. Some Mycobacterium tuberculosis PPD components are present in BCG, which can be the cause of false positive TST results in BCG vaccinated persons. New IFN-? release assays (IGRAs) are based on the ex vivo release of IFN-? by peripheral blood cells in presence of M. tuberculosis antigens ESAT-6 and CFP-10, which should be absent in BCG. These assays consist in either quantifying released IFN-? or enumerating IFN-? producing cells. In principle, IGRAs should differentiate true TB infection from vaccination and results of several studies suggest that these assays display lower positivity than TST. Whether the lower positivity could be attributed to higher specificity or to lower sensitivity as compared with PPD is still unclear. BCG vaccination, if not recently applied, cannot be blamed for false positive TST reactions. Strong TST reactions (=10 mm or =15 mm) are highly correlated with TB infection. In settings where TB continues being a serious health problem, cost-effectiveness evaluations would privilege TST under certain conditions: supply of quality-assured PPD reagent, standardized criteria for TST application, reading and interpretation, and regular availability in health centers countrywide. In view of current limitations in the supply of imported PPD in Argentina, its production/quality assurance should be considered a public health priority. Still, key questions remain to be addressed concerning the role of IGRAs and TST in predicting risk of TB disease, in other words, in identifying persons who will benefit most from chemoprophylaxis.

Keywords : Tuberculin skin test; PPD; IFN-? release assays; Tuberculosis infection; Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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