Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

High-sensitive and rapid detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection by IFN-γ release assay among HIV-infected individuals in BCG-vaccinated area

Weimin Jiang1, Lingyun Shao1, Ying Zhang2, Shu Zhang1, Chengyan Meng1, Yunya Xu3, Lingli Huang1, Yun Wang1, Ying Wang1, Xinhua Weng1 and Wenhong Zhang1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200040, PR China

2 Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

3 Department of Infectious Diseases, Honghe No.1 People's Hospital, Yunnan Province 661100, PR China

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BMC Immunology 2009, 10:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-10-31

Published: 28 May 2009



An accurate test for Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is urgently needed in immunosuppressed populations. The aim of this study was to investigate the diagnostic power of enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT)-based IFN-γ release assay in detecting active and latent tuberculosis in HIV-infected population in bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)-vaccinated area. A total of 100 HIV-infected individuals including 32 active tuberculosis patients were recruited. An ELISPOT-based IFN-γ release assay, T-SPOT.TB, was used to evaluate the M. tuberculosis ESAT-6 and CFP-10 specific IFN-γ response. Tuberculin skin test (TST) was performed for all recruited subjects.


The subjects were divided into group HIV+ATB (HIV-infected individuals with active tuberculosis, n = 32), group HIV+LTB (HIV-infected individuals with positive results of T-SPOT.TB assay, n = 46) and group HIV only (HIV-infected individuals with negative results of T-SPOT.TB assay and without evidence of tuberculosis infection, n = 22). In group HIV+ATB and HIV+LTB, T-SPOT.TB positive rate in subjects with TST <5 mm were 50% (16/32) and 41.3% (19/46), respectively. Individuals in group HIV+ATB and HIV+LTB with CD4+ T cells <500/μl, T-SPOT.TB showed a higher sensitivity than TST (64.5% vs. 22.6% and 62.2% vs. 29.7%, respectively, both P < 0.0001). In addition, the sensitivity of T-SPOT.TB assay in group HIV+ATB increased to >85% in patients with TB treatment for less than 1 month and CD4+ T cells ≥200/μl, while for patients treated for more than 3 months and CD4+ T cells <200/μl, the sensitivity was decreased to only 33.3%. Furthermore, the results could be generated by T-SPOT.TB assay within 24 hours, which was more rapid than TST with 48–72 hours.


ELISPOT-based IFN-γ release assay is more sensitive and rapid for the diagnosis of TB infection in Chinese HIV-infected individuals with history of BCG vaccination, and could be an effective tool for guiding preventive treatment with isoniazid in latently infected people and for TB control in China.