The chest CT of my patient with “B” symptoms shows hilar mass and mediastinal lymphadenopathy, highly suspicious for lymphoma or malignancy per radiology report. Should I still consider tuberculosis (TB) as a possibility?

Absolutely! TB often mimics malignancy, particularly lymphoma, both clinically and radiographically, even when sophisticated imaging techniques are used.1  

There are ample reports of TB being confused with mediastinal lymphoma, 1-6 with several reports also stressing abdominal TB mimicking malignancy. 7-10 As early as  1949, a  NEJM autopsy study emphasized “the difficulty in differentiating primary progressive TB and some types of lymphoma” and metastatic neoplasms, clinically and radiographically.  Over half-century later, despite major advancement in imaging techniques, TB is often confused for lymphoma or malignancy.

One reason for confusing TB with lymphoma is that primary TB can involve any pulmonary lobe or segment and is often associated with hilar and mediastinal adenopathy. 1 TB may also be overlooked in the differential diagnosis of mediastinal mass that often highlights neoplasms such as lymphoma, thymoma and germ cell tumors. 3 Lack of concurrent pulmonary infiltrates in the presence of mediastinal adenopathy may also veer clinicians away from TB diagnosis. 2,3,6 Unfortunately, even more sophisticated PET/CT scans may not be able to differentiate TB from lymphoma.5,6,9

Besides chest and abdomen, TB can also mimic malignancy in cervical nodes, bones (particularly the spine), bowels, and brain.1,2,6,8,9  To make matters worse, splenomegaly 2,10 and elevated LDH 3 may also be seen with TB and TB may coexist with lymphoma and other malignancies. 7,9,11

One of the best advices I ever received from a radiologist was “Think of TB anytime you think of lymphoma.”

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that TB lymphadenitis is the most common form of extrapulmonary TB with the majority involving the mediastinum? 4

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References

  1. Tan CH, Kontoyiannis DP, Viswanathan C, et al. Tuberculosis: A benign impostor. AJR 2010;194:555-61. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/41509877_Tuberculosis_A_Benign_Impostor
  2. Smith DT. Progressive primary tuberculosis in the adult and its differentiation from lymphomas and mycotic infections. N Engl J Med 1949;241:198-202. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18137399
  3. Maguire S, Chotirmall SH, Parihar V, et al. Isolated anterior mediastinal tuberculosis in an immunocompetent patient. BMC Pulm Med 2016;16:24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4739107/
  4. Tang SS, Yang ZG, Deng W, et al. Differentiation between tuberculosis and lymphoma in mediastinal lymph nodes: evaluation with contrast-enhanced MDCT. Clin Radiol 2012;67:877-83. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0009926012001079
  5. Hou S, Shen J, Tan J. Case report: Multiple systemic disseminated tuberculosis mimicking lymphoma on 18F-FDG PET/CT. Medicine 2017;96:29(e7248). https://journals.lww.com/md-journal/Pages/ArticleViewer.aspx?year=2017&issue=07210&article=00005&type=Fulltext
  6. Tian G, Xiao Y, Chen B, et al. Multi-site abdominal tuberculosis mimics malignancy on 18F-FDG PET/CT: Report of three cases. World J Gastroenterol 2010;16:4237-4242. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2932932/
  7. Dres M, Demoule A, Schmidt M, et al. Tuberculosis hiding a non-Hodgkin lymphoma “there may be more to this than meets the eye”. Resp Med Case Rep 2012;7:15-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3920344/
  8. Banerjee Ak, Coltart DJ. Abdominal tuberculosis mimicking lymphoma in a patient with sickle cell anemia. Br J Clin Pract 1990;44:660-61. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2102179?dopt=Abstract
  9. Gong Y, Li S, Rong R, et al. Isolated gastric varices secondary to abdominal tuberculosis mimicking lymphoma: a case report. Gastroenterology 109;19:78. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31138138
  10. Uy AB, Garcia Am Manguba A, et al. Tuberculosis: the great lymphoma pretender. Int J Cancer Res Mol Mech 2016; 2(1):doi http://dx.doi.org/10.16966/2381-3318.123
  11. Nayanagari K, Rani R, Bakka S, et al. Pulmonary tuberculosis with mediastinal lymphadenopathy and superior veno caval obstruction, mimicking lung malignancy: a case report. Int J Sci Study 2015;2:211-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31138138
The chest CT of my patient with “B” symptoms shows hilar mass and mediastinal lymphadenopathy, highly suspicious for lymphoma or malignancy per radiology report. Should I still consider tuberculosis (TB) as a possibility?

My patient with rheumatoid arthritis might have been exposed to tuberculosis. Does immunosuppressive therapy affect the results of interferon gamma release assay (IGRA) testing for latent tuberculosis?

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

In some ways the finding of false-negative IGRA in the setting of immunosuppression is intuitive since many immunosuppressive agents are potent inhibitors of T cells and interferon-gamma response. 1,2 Despite this, the initial reports have been somewhat conflicting which makes a 2016 meta-analysis of the effect of immunosuppressive therapy on IGRA results in patient with autoimmune diseases (eg, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease) particularly timely. 1

This meta-analysis found a significantly lower positive IGRA results among patients on immunosuppressive therapy ( O.R. 0.66, 95% C.I. 0.53-0.83). Breakdown by IGRA test showed a significant association between QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube and lower positive results and a trend toward the same with T-SPOT though the latter did not reach statistical significance with fewer evaluable studies (O.R. 0.81, 95% C.I 0.6-1.1).   Breakdown by type of immunosuppressant showed significantly negative impact of corticossteroids, other oral immunosuppressants, and anti-TNF agents for all. Some studies have reported daily steroid doses as low as 7.5 mg-10 mg may adversely impact T-cell responsiveness in IGRA. 3,4

So, whenever possible, testing for latent TB should be performed before immunosuppressants are initiated.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that an estimated one-third of the world’s population may have latent TB?

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References

  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. https://thorax.bmj.com/content/thoraxjnl/71/1/64.full.pdf
  2. Sester U, Wilkens H, van Bentum K, et al. Impaired detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis immunity in patents using high levels of immunosuppressive drugs. Eur Respir J 2009;34:702-10. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/34/3/702
  3. 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. https://ard.bmj.com/content/69/4/782
  4. 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18398944
My patient with rheumatoid arthritis might have been exposed to tuberculosis. Does immunosuppressive therapy affect the results of interferon gamma release assay (IGRA) testing for latent tuberculosis?

What does an “indeterminate” result in QuantiFERON Gold in-Tube test for latent tuberculosis really mean?

Anindeterminate” QuantiFeron Gold in-Tube (QFT-IT) simply means the result can’t be interpreted. It does NOT mean “intermediate” or “borderline positive”!

Although there are several reasons for an indeterminate QFT-IT, a common explanation is an immunocompromised state involving inadequate T-cell response (eg, corticosteroids, HIV, cancer). Improper storage of tubes and specimen handling, baseline elevated interferon (IFN)-ɣ due to heterophile antibodies, recovery phase of an infection or vaccination may also be associated with indeterminate QFT-IT results. 1,2 For these reasons, the test should be repeated for confirmation.

It all makes more sense if we understand the basis for the test. QFT-IT involves blood obtained in 3 separate test tubes:

  • Tube 1: Contains only the patient’s blood with nothing added (NIL) (“Negative control”)
  • Tube 2: Contains non-specific mitogens that stimulate patient’s T-cells (“Positive control”)
  • Tube 3: Contains specific TB antigens

Since QFT-IT is an IFN- ɣ release assay, IFN- ɣ is measured in each tube after 16-24 h incubation. A negative QFT-IT is when there is not much difference between IFN- ɣ levels in negative control and TB tubes (“TB-[minus]NIL”) AND the positive control works (“MITOGEN-[minus]NIL” is elevated).

You can now see why a negative result in the TB tube doesn’t mean much (ie, the result is “indeterminate”) when the T-cells don’t respond to non-specific antigens.  This situation is analogous to calling a PPD “negative” when a patient is anergic!

References

  1. Herrera V, Yeh E, Murphy K, et al. Immediate incubation reduces indeterminate results for QuantiFERON-TB Gold in-Tube assay. J Clin Microbiol 2010;48:2672-2676. http://jcm.asm.org/content/48/8/2672.full
  2. Bui DHP, Cruz AT, Graviss EA. Indeterminate QuantiFERON-TB Gold in-Tube assay results in children. Ped Infect Dis J 2014; 33: 220-22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24413410
What does an “indeterminate” result in QuantiFERON Gold in-Tube test for latent tuberculosis really mean?

My middle age patient complains of night sweats for several months, but she has had no weight loss and does not appear ill. What could I be missing?

Night sweats (NS) is a common patient complaint, affecting about a third of hospitalized patients on medical wards1.  Despite its long list of potential causes, direct relationship between the often- cited conditions and NS is usually unclear2, its cause may remain elusive In about a third to half of cases in the primary care setting, and its prognosis, at least in those >65 y of age, does not appear to be unfavorable 2,3.

Selected commonly and less frequently cited conditions associated with NS are listed (Table)2-9.  Although tuberculosis is one of the first conditions we think of when faced with a patient with NS, it should be emphasized that NS is not common in this disease (unless advanced) and is rare among hospitalized patients as a cause of their NS1,9.

In one of the larger study of adult patients seen in primary care setting, 23% reported pure NS and an additional 18% reported night and day sweats5; the prevalence of NS in both men and women was highest in 41-55 y age group. In multivariate analyses, factors associated with pure NS in women were hot flashes and panic attacks; in men, sleep disorders. 

Table. Selected causes of night sweats

Commonly cited Less frequently cited
Neoplastic/hematologic (eg, lymphoma, leukemia, myelofibrosis)

Infections (eg, HIV, tuberculosis, endocarditis)

Endocrine (eg, ovarian failure, hyperthyroidism, orchiectomy, carcinoid tumor, diabetes mellitus [nocturnal hypoglycemia], pheochromocytoma)

Rheumatologic (eg, giant cell arteritis)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

B-12 deficiency

Pulmonary embolism

Drugs (eg, anti-depressants, SSRIs, donepezil [Aricept], tacatuzumab)

Sleep disturbances (eg, obstructive sleep apnea)

Panic attacks/anxiety disorder

Obesity

Hemachromatosis

Diabetes insipidus

References

  1. Lea MJ, Aber RC, Descriptive epidemiology of night sweats upon admission to a university hospital. South Med J 1985;78:1065-67.
  2. Mold JW, Holtzclaw BJ, McCarthy L. Night sweats: A systematic review of the literature. J Am Board Fam Med 2012; 25-878-893.
  3. Mold JW, Lawler F. The prognostic implications of night sweats in two cohorts of older patients. J Am Board Fam Med 2010;23:97-103.
  4. Mold JW, Holtzclaw BJ. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and night sweats in a primary care population. Drugs-Real World Outcomes 2015;2:29-33.
  5. Mold JW, Mathew MK, Belgore S, et al. Prevalence of night sweats in primary care patients: An OKPRN and TAFP-Net collaborative study. J Fam Pract 2002; 31:452-56.
  6. Feher A, Muhsin SA, Maw AM. Night sweats as a prominent symptom of a patient presenting with pulmonary embolism. Case reports in Pulmonology 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/841272
  7. Rehman HU. Vitamin B12 deficiency causing night sweats. Scottish Med J 2014;59:e8-11.
  8. Murday HK, Rusli FD, Blandy C, et al. Night sweats: it may be hemochromatosis. Climacteric 2016;19:406-8.
  9. Fred HL. Night sweats. Hosp Pract 1993 (Aug 15):88.
My middle age patient complains of night sweats for several months, but she has had no weight loss and does not appear ill. What could I be missing?

Routine screening of my patient suspected of having tuberculosis (TB) shows that he is HIV seropositive. Does HIV affect the clinical manifestation of TB?

Patients with newly-diagnosed TB are ~20 times more likely to be coinfected with HIV than those without TB. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of TB in HIV-infected patients is often delayed in part related to its atypical presentation1.

In HIV-infected patients with high CD4 counts, clinical manifestations of TB are usually similar to those without HIV infection (eg, subacute fever, weight loss, cough) with CXR often showing upper lobe infiltrates and/or cavitations typically seen in reactivation TB.

Lower CD4 counts, however, are associated with atypical CXR findings, including pleural effusions, lower or middle lobe infiltrates, mediastinal adenopathy, and lack of cavitary lesions1,2.  A normal CXR has been reported in 21% of patients with CD4 <200 cells/μl (vs 5% in those with higher counts)2.

Advanced immune suppression in HIV infection is also associated with negative sputum smears for acid-fast bacilli, concurrent extra-pulmonary disease, and immune reconstitution symptoms after initiation of anti-TB therapy1.

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References

  1. Kwan CK, Ernst JD. HIV and tuberculosis: a deadly human syndemic. Clin Microbiol Rev 2011;24:351-376. https://cmr.asm.org/content/24/2/351
  2. Greenberg, SD, Frager D, Suster B, et al. Active pulmonary tuberculosis in patients with AIDS: spectrum of radiographic findings (including a normal appearance). Radiology 1994;193:115-9. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/abs/10.1148/radiology.193.1.7916467
Routine screening of my patient suspected of having tuberculosis (TB) shows that he is HIV seropositive. Does HIV affect the clinical manifestation of TB?

Is ascitic fluid adenosine deaminase (ADA) useful in diagnosing tuberculous (TB) peritonitis?

ADA is an enzyme found in a variety tissues and blood cells including erythrocytes and lymphocytes. Its activity in body fluids is primarily related to the number, maturation and level of stimulation of lymphocytes (1).  Although ADA has been used as a diagnostic test for tuberculous meningitis, pericarditis and pleural effusions, caution should be exercised when interpreting its activity in ascitic fluid, particularly in low endemic countries where cirrhosis may not be uncommon.  In a study of patients with ascites in the U.S., the overall sensitivity of the ADA for TB peritonitis was 59 % with a specificity of 95% (1).  Among cirrhotic patients, however, the sensitivity of ADA was only 30%!   False-positive results are occasionally observed in bacterial peritonitis and malignancy-associated ascites (1).  Parenthetically, the sensitivity of serum ascites-albumin gradient (SAAG) <1.1 for TB peritonitis is also low (50%) in the setting of chronic liver disease (2).

  1. Hillebrand DJ, Runyon BA, Yasmineh WG, Rynders GP. Ascitic fluid adenosine deaminase insensitivity in detecting tuberculous peritonitis in the United States. Hepatology 1996;24:1408-1412.
  2. Shakil AO, Korula J, Kanel GC, Murray NG, Reynolds TB. Diagnostic features of tuberculous peritonitis in the absence and presence of chronic liver disease: a case-control study. Am J Med 1996;100:179-185.

 

Is ascitic fluid adenosine deaminase (ADA) useful in diagnosing tuberculous (TB) peritonitis?

Besides malignancy, what other causes of cachexia should we usually consider in our hospitalized patients?

Although cachexia , a loss of >5% body weight over 12 months,  has been reported in about 30% of patients with cancer, many other chronic conditions  commonly encountered in our hospitalized patients may also be a culprit.  In fact, cachexia is not infrequent in CHF (20%), COPD (20%), kidney failure (40%), or rheumatoid arthritis (10%) (1,2).  We also shouldn’t overlook HIV and tuberculosis as a cause.

Cachexia is a multifactorial disease which does not fully reverse with nutritional support.  Numerous mediators have been implicated, including cytokines such as tumor-necrosis factor-α, and interleukin [IL]-1 and -6, as well as transforming growth factors such as myostatin and activin A (2). 

In patients with CHF, angiotensin II appears to be a key mediator, associated with insulin resistance, depletion of  ATP in skeletal muscles, poor appetite, reduction in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and an increase in glucocorticoid and IL-6 levels.  All these factors contribute to “cardiac cachexia” through muscle wasting, reduced food intake and lower muscle regeneration. 

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References

  1. Morely JE, Thomas DR, Wilson M-M G. Cachexia: pathophysiology and clinical relevance. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:735-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16600922
  2. Yoshida T, Delafontaine P. Mechanisms of cachexia in chronic disease states. Am J Med Sci 2015;35:250-256. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587350/
Besides malignancy, what other causes of cachexia should we usually consider in our hospitalized patients?

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: https://pearls4peers.com/2020/01/20/my-patient-with-rheumatoid-arthritis-might-have-been-exposed-to-tuberculosis-does-immunosuppressive-therapy-affect-the-results-of-interferon-gamma-release-assay-igra-testing-for-latent-tuberculosis/

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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Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

References

  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. https://thorax.bmj.com/content/thoraxjnl/71/1/64.full.pdf
  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. https://ard.bmj.com/content/69/4/782
  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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18398944
  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. https://academic.oup.com/ibdjournal/article/17/11/2340/4631016 
  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. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265093409_Performance_of_Interferon-gamma_Release_Assay_for_Tuberculosis_Screening_in_Inflammatory_Bowel_Disease_Patients
Does corticosteroid therapy impact the results of interferon-gamma release assays—IGRAs— in patients screened for latent tuberculosis?