Sensitivity of a new commercial enzyme-linked immunospot assay (T SPOT-TB) for diagnosis of tuberculosis in clinical practice
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Diagnosis of active and latent tuberculosis (TB) remains a challenge; however, over the last few years, a new approach based on detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis-specific T cells has shown much promise. In particular, there is substantial published evidence showing that the detection of ESAT-6- and CFP-10-specific T cells using the ex vivo enzyme-linked immunospot technique is a marked improvement over the existing tuberculin skin test. This technique, which detects gamma interferon-producing T cells, is now available as the commercial assay T SPOT-TB (Oxford Immunotec, Oxford, UK). In the present study, the usefulness of the T SPOT-TB test for diagnosis of TB in “real-world” clinical practice was investigated. Ninety patients of a southern German referral centre for TB with confirmed or suspected TB were randomly selected for this study. The results of the T SPOT-TB test were compared with the results of conventional diagnostic tools. The T SPOT-TB test detected 70 of 72 patients with pulmonary or extrapulmonary TB, indicating a sensitivity of 97.2% (95% confidence interval, 90.3–99.7). For 45 of these patients, tuberculin skin test (TST) results were also available. Only 40 (89%) of these 45 patients were positive in the TST compared to all 45 (100%) in the T SPOT-TB test (p=0.056). Among 12 of 90 patients for whom active TB disease was ruled out, the T SPOT-TB test was negative for 11 (92%), allowing the rapid exclusion of TB in patients suspected to have active TB disease. The T SPOT-TB test is a sensitive assay for detection of TB and represents a useful addition to the diagnostic algorithm available for detecting TB in low-incidence settings.
The authors are grateful to all patients and the staff of Klinikum Schillerhöhe who took part in this study. We thank Martina Richter for excellent technical assistance performing the T SPOT-TB test. T SPOT-TB reagents were supplied by Oxford Immunotec Limited. We are grateful to Ajit Lalvani for helpful discussions. The experiments performed comply with the current laws of Germany.
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