The performance of interferon-gamma release assays in tuberculosis patients with type II diabetes

Mary Walsh, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The sensitivity of Interferon-γ release assays for detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection or disease is affected by conditions that depress host immunity (such as HIV). It is critical to determine whether these assays are affected by diabetes and related conditions (i.e. hyperglycemia, chronic hyperglycemia, or being overweight/obese) given that immune impairment is thought to underline susceptibility to tuberculosis (TB) in people with diabetes. This is important for tuberculosis control due to the millions of type 2 diabetes patients at risk for tuberculosis worldwide. The objective of this study was to identify host characteristics, including diabetes, that may affect the sensitivity of two commercially available Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) release assays (IGRA), the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold (QFT-G) and the T-SPOT®.TB in active TB patients. We further explored whether IFN-γ secretion in response to MTB antigens (ESAT-6 and CFP-10) is associated with diabetes and its defining characteristics (high blood glucose, high HbA1c, high BMI). To achieve these objectives, the sensitivity of QFT-G and T-SPOT. TB assays were evaluated in newly diagnosed, tuberculosis confirmed (by positive smear for acid fast bacilli and/or positive culture for MTB) adults enrolled at Texas and Mexico study sites between March 2006 and April 2009. Univariate and multivariate models were constructed to identify host characteristics associated with IGRA result and level of IFN-γ secretion. QFT-G was positive in 68% of tuberculosis patients. Those with diabetes, chronic hyperglycemia or obesity were more likely to have a positive QFT-G result, and to secrete higher levels of IFN-γ in response to the mycobacterial antigens (p<0.05). Previous history of BCG vaccination was the only other host characteristic associated with QFT-G result, whereby a higher proportion of non-BCG vaccinated persons were QFT-G positive, in comparison to vaccinated persons. In a separate group of patients, the T-SPOT.TB was 94% sensitive, with similar performance in all tuberculosis patients, regardless of host characteristics. In summary, we have demonstrated the validity of QFT-G and T-SPOT. TB to support the diagnosis of TB in patients with a range of host characteristics, but most notably in patients with diabetes. We also confirmed that TB patients with diabetes and associated characteristics (chronic hyperglycemia or BMI) secreted higher titers of IFN-γ when stimulated with MTB specific antigens, in comparison to patients without these characteristics. Together, these findings suggest that the mechanism by which diabetes increases risk to TB may not be explained by the inability to secrete IFN-γ, a key cytokine for TB control.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Walsh, Mary, "The performance of interferon-gamma release assays in tuberculosis patients with type II diabetes" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474749.