The tuberculin skin test versus QuantiFERON TB Gold® in predicting tuberculosis disease in an adolescent cohort study in South Africa

Setting This study was conducted in a high tuberculosis (TB) burden area in Worcester, South Africa, with a notified all TB incidence rate of 1,400/100,000. Main Objective To compare the predictive value of a baseline tuberculin skin test (TST) with that of the QuantiFERON TB Gold (In-tube) assay (QFT) for subsequent microbiologically confirmed TB disease among adolescents. METHODS: Adolescents aged 12-18 years were recruited from high schools in the study area. At baseline, blood was drawn for QFT and a TST administered. Participants were followed up for up to 3.8 years for incident TB disease (median 2.4 years). RESULTS: After exclusions, 5244 (82.4%) of 6,363 adolescents enrolled, were analysed. The TB incidence rate was 0.60 cases per 100 person years (pyrs) (95% CI 0.43-0.82) for baseline TST positive (≥5 mm) participants and 0.64 cases per 100 pyrs (95% CI 0.45-0.87) for baseline QFT positive participants. TB incidence rates were 0.22 per 100 pyrs (0.11-0.39) and 0.22 per 100 pyrs (0.12-0.38) among those with a negative baseline TST and QFT respectively. Sensitivity for incident TB disease was 76.9% for TST and 75.0% for QFT (p = 0.81). Positive predictive value was 1.4% for TST and 1.5% for QFT. CONCLUSION: Positive TST and QFT tests were moderately sensitive predictors of progression to microbiologically confirmed TB disease. There was no significant difference in the predictive ability of these tests for TB disease amongst adolescents in this high burden setting. Therefore, these findings do not support use of QFT in preference to TST to predict the risk of TB disease in this study population.