Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Persistently elevated T cell interferon-gamma responses after treatment for latent tuberculosis infection among health care workers in India: a preliminary report.

  • Author(s): Pai, Madhukar
  • Joshi, Rajnish
  • Dogra, Sandeep
  • Mendiratta, Deepak K
  • Narang, Pratibha
  • Dheda, Keertan
  • Kalantri, Shriprakash
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

T cell-based interferon-γ (IFN-γ) release assays (IGRAs) are novel tests for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). It has been suggested that T cell responses may be correlated with bacterial burden and, therefore, IGRAs may have a role in monitoring treatment response. We investigated IFN-γ responses to specific TB antigens among Indian health care workers (HCWs) before, and after LTBI preventive therapy.

Methods

In 2004, we established a cohort of HCWs who underwent tuberculin skin testing (TST) and a whole-blood IGRA (QuantiFERON-TB-Gold In-Tube [QFT-G], Cellestis Ltd, Victoria, Australia) at a rural hospital in India. HCWs positive by either test were offered 6 months of isoniazid (INH) preventive therapy. Among the HCWs who underwent therapy, we prospectively followed-up 10 nursing students who were positive by both tests at baseline. The QFT-G assay was repeated 4 and 10 months after INH treatment completion (i.e. approximately 12 months and 18 months after the initial testing).

IFN-γ responses to ESAT-6, CFP-10 and TB7.7 peptides were measured using ELISA, and IFN-γ ≥0.35 IU/mL was used to define a positive QFT-G test result.

Results

All participants (N = 10) reported direct contact with smear-positive TB patients at baseline, during and after LTBI treatment. All participants except one started treatment with high baseline IFN-γ responses (median 10.0 IU/mL). The second QFT-G was positive in 9 of 10 participants, but IFN-γ responses had declined (median 5.0 IU/mL); however, this difference was not significant (P = 0.10). The third QFT-G assay continued to be positive in 9 of 10 participants, with persistently elevated IFN-γ responses (median 7.9 IU/mL; P = 0.32 for difference against baseline average).

Conclusion

In an environment with ongoing, intensive nosocomial exposure, HCWs had strong IFN-γ responses at baseline, and continued to have persistently elevated responses, despite LTBI treatment. It is plausible that persistence of infection and/or re-infection might account for this phenomenon. Our preliminary findings need confirmation in larger studies in high transmission settings. Specifically, research is needed to study T cell kinetics during LTBI treatment, and determine the effect of recurrent exposures on host cellular immune responses.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View