Mycobacteria-Specific Cytokine Responses Detect TB Infection and Distinguish Latent from Active TB

Tebruegge et al., Am J Respir Crit Care Med. (2015) - PMID: 26030187

Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools



Current immunodiagnostic tests for tuberculosis (TB), including the tuberculin skin test and IFN-γ release assay (IGRA), have significant limitations, which include their inability to distinguish between latent TB infection (LTBI) and active TB, a distinction critical for clinical management.


To identify mycobacteria-specific cytokine biomarkers that characterize TB infection, determine their diagnostic performance characteristics, and establish whether these biomarkers can distinguish between LTBI and active TB.


A total of 149 children investigated for TB infection were recruited; all participants underwent a tuberculin skin test and QuantiFERON-TB Gold assay. In parallel, whole-blood assays using early secretory antigenic target-6, culture filtrate protein-10, and PPD as stimulatory antigens were undertaken, and cytokine responses were determined by xMAP multiplex assays.


IFN-γ, interferon-inducible protein-10 (IP-10), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL-1ra, IL-2, IL-13, and MIP-1β (macrophage inflammatory protein-1β) responses were significantly higher in LTBI and active TB cases than in TB-uninfected individuals, irrespective of the stimulant. Receiver operating characteristic analyses showed that IP-10, TNF-α, and IL-2 responses achieved high sensitivity and specificity for the distinction between TB-uninfected and TB-infected individuals. TNF-α, IL-1ra, and IL-10 responses had the greatest ability to distinguish between LTBI and active TB cases; the combinations of TNF-α/IL-1ra and TNF-α/IL-10 achieved correct classification of 95.5% and 100% of cases, respectively.


We identified several mycobacteria-specific cytokine biomarkers with the potential to be exploited for immunodiagnosis. Incorporation of these biomarkers into future immunodiagnostic assays for TB could result in substantial gains in sensitivity and allow the distinction between LTBI and active TB based on a blood test alone.

Stay in touch and be the first to receive the latest news!