Does corticosteroid therapy impact the results of interferon-gamma release assays—IGRAs— in patients screened for latent tuberculosis?


The weight of the evidence to date suggests that immunosuppressive therapy, including corticosteroids, other oral immunosuppressants and anti-tumor-necrosing factor (TNF) drugs, may negatively impact IGRA results.1-5

Some studies have reported daily steroid doses as low as 7.5 mg-10 mg may adversely impact T-cell responsiveness in IGRA. 2-4 In a study of patients with autoimmune disorders, 27% of patients on daily prednisolone dose of 10 mg or more had indeterminate QuantiFeron Gold In-Tube test compared to 1% of patients not taking prednisolone.4

A meta-analysis of the performance of IGRAs (including T-SPOT.TB) in patients with inflammatory bowel disease concluded that these assays were negatively affected by immunosuppressive therapy.5

So, be cautious in interpreting a negative or indeterminate results of IGRAs in patients on corticosteroid therapy or other immunosuppressants.

See also a related P4P post:

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that IGRA is not affected by prior Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination, a significant advantage over PPD skin tests?

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  1. Wong SH, Gao Q, Tsoi KKF, et al. Effect of immunosuppressive therapy on interferon gamma release assay for latent tuberculosis screening in patients with autoimmune diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax 2016;71:64-72.
  2. Kleinert S, Kurzai O, Elias J, et al. Comparison of two interferon-gamma release assays and tuberculin skin test for detecting latent tuberculosis in patients with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. Ann Rheum Dis 2010;69:782-4.
  3. Ponce de Leon D, Acevedo-Vasquez E, Alvizuri S, et al. Comparison of an interferon-gamma assay with tuberculin skin testing for detection of tuberculosis (TB) infection in patients with rheumatoid arthritis in a TB-endemic population. J Rheumatol 2008;35:776-81.
  4. Belard E, Semb S, Ruhwald M, et al. Prednisolone treatment affects the performance of the QuantiFERON Gold In-Tube test and the Tuberculin skin test in patients with autoimmune disorders screened for latent tuberculosis infection. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2011;17:2340-2349. 
  5.  Shahidi N, Fu Y-T, Qian H, et al. Performance of interferon-gamma release assays in patients with inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2012;18:2034-2042.
Does corticosteroid therapy impact the results of interferon-gamma release assays—IGRAs— in patients screened for latent tuberculosis?

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