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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Serial interferon-gamma release assays during treatment of active tuberculosis in young adults

Sei Won Lee12, Choon-Taek Lee2 and Jae-Joon Yim3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Armed Forces Capital Hospital, Seongnam, Republic of Korea

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam, Republic of Korea

3 Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Lung Institute, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:300  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-300

Published: 16 October 2010



The role of interferon-γ release assay (IGRA) in monitoring responses to anti-tuberculosis (TB) treatment is not clear. We evaluated the results of the QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-tube (QFT-GIT) assay over time during the anti-TB treatment of adults with no underlying disease.


We enrolled soldiers who were newly diagnosed with active TB and admitted to the central referral military hospital in South Korea between May 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. For each participant, we preformed QFT-GIT assay before treatment (baseline) and at 1, 3, and 6 months after initiating anti-TB medication.


Of 67 eligible patients, 59 (88.1%) completed the study protocol. All participants were males who were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-negative and had no chronic diseases. Their median age was 21 years (range, 20-48). Initially, 57 (96.6%) patients had positive QFT-GIT results, and 53 (89.8%), 42 (71.2%), and 39 (66.1%) had positive QFT-GIT results at 1, 3, and 6 months, respectively. The IFN-γ level at baseline was 5.31 ± 5.34 IU/ml, and the levels at 1, 3, and 6 months were 3.95 ± 4.30, 1.82 ± 2.14, and 1.50 ± 2.12 IU/ml, respectively. All patients had clinical and radiologic improvements after treatment and were cured. A lower IFN-γ level, C-reactive protein ≥ 3 mg/dl, and the presence of fever (≥ 38.3°C) at diagnosis were associated with negative reversion of the QFT-GIT assay.


Although the IFN-γ level measured by QFT-GIT assay decreased after successful anti-TB treatment in most participants, less than half of them exhibited QFT-GIT reversion. Thus, the reversion to negativity of the QFT-GIT assay may not be a good surrogate for treatment response in otherwise healthy young patients with TB.