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Interpreting tuberculin skin tests in a population with a high prevalence of HIV, tuberculosis, and nonspecific tuberculin sensitivity.

Author(s): Dodd PJ, Millington KA, Ghani AC, Mutsvangwa J, Butterworth AE, Lalvani A, Corbett EL

Affiliation(s): Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, St. Mary's Medical School, Imperial College London, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, United Kingdom. peter.dodd@imperial.ac.uk

Publication date & source: 2010-05-01, Am J Epidemiol., 171(9):1037-45. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Publication type: Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Understanding the epidemiology and clinical course of tuberculosis is hampered by the absence of a perfect test for latent tuberculosis infection. The tuberculin skin test (TST) is widely used but suffers poor specificity in those receiving the bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine and poor sensitivity in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections. TST responses for a target population in Harare, Zimbabwe (HIV prevalence, 21%), recruited in 2005-2006, were interpreted by using a separate calibration population in Harare, for which interferon-gamma release assays (enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISpot)) results were also known. Statistical fitting of the responses in the calibration population allowed computation of the probability that an individual in the target population with a given TST and HIV result would have tested ELISpot positive. From this, estimates of the prevalence of tuberculosis infection, and optimal TST cutpoints to minimize misdiagnosis, were computed for different assumptions about ELISpot performance. Different assumptions about the sensitivity and specificity of ELISpot gave a 40%-57% prevalence of tuberculosis infection in the target population (including HIV-infected individuals) and optimal TST cutpoints typically in the 10 mm-20 mm range. However, the optimal cutpoint for HIV-infected individuals was consistently 0 mm. This calibration method may provide a valuable tool for interpreting TST results in other populations.

Page last updated: 2010-10-05

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