The screening and treatment of latent tuberculosis (TB) infection reduces the risk of progression to active disease and is currently recommended for HIV-infected patients. The aim of this study is to evaluate, in a low TB incidence setting, the potential contribution of an interferon-gamma release assay in response to the mycobacterial latency antigen Heparin-Binding Haemagglutinin (HBHA-IGRA), to the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in HIV-infected patients.
Treatment-naïve HIV-infected adults were recruited from 4 Brussels-based hospitals. Subjects underwent screening for latent TB using the HBHA-IGRA in parallel to a classical method consisting of medical history, chest X-ray, tuberculin skin test (TST) and QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT-GIT). Prospective clinical and biological follow-up ensued, with repeated testing with HBHA-IGRA. A group of HIV-infected patients with clinical suspicion of active TB was also recruited and tested with the HBHA-IGRA. Multiplex analysis was performed on the culture supernatants of this in-house assay to identify test read-outs alternative to interferon-gamma that could increase the sensitivity of the test.
Among 48 candidates enrolled for screening, 9 were identified with latent TB by TST and/or QFT-GIT results. Four of these 9 patients and an additional 3 screened positive with the HBHA-IGRA. This in-house assay identified all the patients that were positive for the TST and showed the best concordance with the presence of a M. tuberculosis exposure risk. During follow-up (median 14 months) no case of active TB was reported and HBHA-IGRA results remained globally constant. Fourteen HIV-infected patients with clinical suspicion of active TB were recruited. Active TB was confirmed for 6 of them among which 3 were HBHA-IGRA positive, each with very high interferon-gamma concentrations. All patients for whom active TB was finally excluded, including 2 non-tubercular mycobacterial infections, had negative HBHA-IGRA results. Multiplex analysis confirmed interferon-gamma as the best read-out.
The HBHA-IGRA appears complementary to the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube for the screening of latent TB in HIV-infected patients. Large-scale studies are necessary to determine whether this combination offers sufficient sensitivity to dismiss TST, as suggested by our results. Furthermore, HBHA-IGRA may help in the diagnosis work-up of clinical suspicions of active TB.