There are limited data from high-income countries on the performance of interferon-gamma release assays in screening for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). We analyzed the routine application of the Quantiferon-TB Gold (QFT-G) assay to detect and predict latent and active TB among HIV-infected patients in Australia.
A retrospective cohort study included all HIV-infected patients attending the Melbourne Sexual Health Service between March 2003 and February 2011 who were screened for LTBI using QFT-G. Clinical data were analyzed in multivariable models to determine predictors for QFT-G positivity using logistic regression and active TB development using Cox proportional hazards.
Nine hundred seventeen HIV-infected patients had ≥1 QFT-G performed, of whom 884 (96.4%) were negative, 29 (3.2%) positive, and 4 (0.4%) indeterminate. The mean age was 40.9 years and 88% were male, with median follow-up of 26.4 (interquartile range 15.4-30.7) months. Five hundred fifty (63%) were Australian born, whereas 198 (23%) were born in Asia or Africa. QFT-G was positive in 2.0% of Australian-born, 5.3% of overseas-born [odds ratio: 2.6, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.2 to 5.6, P = 0.017], and 12.7% of African-born patients (odds ratio 7.1, 95% CI: 2.9 to 17.3, P < 0.001). Two cases of culture-positive TB occurred after QFT-G screening in 3.4% of QFT-G-positive and 0.1% of QFT-G-negative patients (adjusted hazard ratio: 42.4, 95% CI: 2.2 to 827, P = 0.013), a rate of 111 (95% CI: 27.8 to 445) per 100,000 person-years.
In this context, QFT-G has a high negative predictive (99.9%) value with few indeterminate results. A risk stratification approach to LTBI screening, where HIV-infected patients with epidemiological risk factors for TB infection undergo QFT-G testing, might be clinically appropriate and potentially cost effective in similar settings.