Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 417–425 | Cite as

Screening of latent tuberculosis infection by interferon-γ release assays in rheumatic patients: a systemic review and meta-analysis

  • Qiaoling Ruan
  • Shu Zhang
  • Jingwen Ai
  • Lingyun Shao
  • Wenhong Zhang
Original Article


The aim of this study is to assess the diagnostic value of interferon-γ release assays (IGRAs) for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in patients with rheumatic disease before receiving biologic agents. MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were used for searching studies concerning the evaluation on the performance of IGRAs [QuantiFERON-TB Gold (QFT-G), QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT) and T-SPOT.TB] in rheumatic patients before biological therapy. After assessing the quality of all studies included in the review, we summarized the results in subgroups using forest plots and calculated pooled estimates if applicable. The search identified 11 studies with a total sample size of 1940 individuals. Compared with the tuberculin skin test (TST), the pooled agreements in QFT-G/GIT and T-SPOT.TB were 72 % (95 % confidence interval (CI) 65, 78 %) and 75 % (95 % CI 67, 83 %), respectively. BCG vaccination was positively correlated with positive rates of TST (pooled odds ratio (OR) 1.64, 95 % CI 1.06, 2.53). Compared with TST, IGRAs were better associated with the presentence of one or more tuberculosis (TB) risk factors. Neither steroid nor disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) significantly affect positive IGRA results. In contrast, TST positivity was significantly impacted by the use of steroid (pooled OR 0.45, 95 % CI 0.30, 0.69), but less significantly by the use of DMARDs (pooled OR 0.78, 95 % CI 0.50, 1.21). In conclusion, in rheumatic patients with previous BCG vaccination or currently on steroid therapy, IGRAs would be the better choice to identify LTBI by decreasing the false-positivity and false-negativity rate compared with conventional TST.


Interferon-gamma release assay Latent tuberculosis Rheumatic disease Tuberculin skin test 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [81302572]. We express our gratitude to authors who responded to our request for additional data from their studies.



Supplementary material

10067_2014_2817_Fig6_ESM.gif (69 kb)
Online Resource 1

Study selection. (GIF 69 kb)

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High resolution image (EPS 1533 kb)
10067_2014_2817_Fig7_ESM.gif (31 kb)
Online Resource 2

Proportion of indeterminate IGRA results. (GIF 31 kb)

10067_2014_2817_MOESM2_ESM.eps (1.8 mb)
High resolution image (EPS 1814 kb)


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Copyright information

© International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiaoling Ruan
    • 1
  • Shu Zhang
    • 1
  • Jingwen Ai
    • 1
  • Lingyun Shao
    • 1
  • Wenhong Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Infectious Diseases, Huashan HospitalFudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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