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Comparison of QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube Test and Tuberculin Skin Test for Identification of Latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection in Healthcare Staff and Association Between Positive Test Results and Known Risk Factors for Infection

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Paul Vinton
University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine and the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Infectious Diseases, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Seema Mihrshahi*
University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine and the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Infectious Diseases, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Paul Johnson
Infectious Diseases Department, Austin Health and University of Melbourne, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Grant A. Jenkin
Heidelberg, the Department of Infectious Diseases, Monash Medical Centre, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
Damien Jolley
Monash Institute of Health Services Research, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
Beverley-Ann Biggs*
University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine and the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Infectious Diseases, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Department of Medicine (RMH/WH), the University of Melbourne, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville 3050, Australia(
Department of Medicine (RMH/WH), the University of Melbourne, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville 3050, Australia(



We compared a whole-blood interferon-γ release assay (QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube test, hereafter “QFT-in tube test”) with a tuberculin skin test (TST) to determine which test more accurately identified latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in healthcare staff.


A total of 481 hospital staff members were recruited from 5 hospitals in Melbourne, Australia. They provided information about demographic variables and tuberculosis (TB) risk factors (ie, birth or travel in a country with a high prevalence of TB, working in an occupation likely to involve contact with M. tuberculosis or individuals with TB, or being a household contact of an individual with a proven case of pulmonary TB). The QFT-in tube test and the TST were administered in accordance with standardized protocols. Concordance between the test results and positive risk factors was analyzed using the к statistic, the McNemar test, and logistic regression.


A total of 358 participants had both a TST result and a QFT-in tube test result available for comparison. There were fewer positive QFT-in tube test results than positive TST results (6.7% vs. 33.0%; P < .001). Agreement between the tests was poor (71%; к = 0.16). A positive QFT-in tube test result was associated with birth in a country with a high prevalence of TB, the number of years an individual had lived in a country with a high prevalence of TB (ie, the effect of each additional year, treated as a continuous variable), and high-risk occupational contact. A positive TST result was associated with older age, receipt of bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination, and working in an occupation that involved patient contact. Receipt of BCG vaccination was most strongly associated with discordant results in instances in which the TST result was positive and the QFT-in tube test result was negative.


In a population of healthcare staff with a low prevalence of TB and a significant rate of BCG vaccination, a positive QFT-in tube test result was associated with the presence of known risk factors for TB exposure, whereas a positive TST result was more strongly associated with a prior history of BCG vaccination.

Original Articles
Copyright © The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America 2009

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