Background: An accurate test for Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is urgently needed in immunosuppressed populations. The aim of this study was to investigate the diagnostic power of enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT)-based IFN-γ release assay in detecting active and latent tuberculosis in HIV-infected population in bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)-vaccinated area. A total of 100 HIV-infected individuals including 32 active tuberculosis patients were recruited. An ELISPOT-based IFN-γ release assay, T-SPOT.TB, was used to evaluate the M. tuberculosis ESAT-6 and CFP-10 specific IFN-γ response. Tuberculin skin test (TST) was performed for all recruited subjects. Results: The subjects were divided into group HIV+ATB (HIV-infected individuals with active tuberculosis, n = 32), group HIV+LTB (HIV-infected individuals with positive results of T-SPOT.TB assay, n = 46) and group HIV only (HIV-infected individuals with negative results of T-SPOT.TB assay and without evidence of tuberculosis infection, n = 22). In group HIV+ATB and HIV+LTB, T-SPOT.TB positive rate in subjects with TST <5 mm were 50% (16/32) and 41.3% (19/46), respectively. Individuals in group HIV+ATB and HIV+LTB with CD4+ T cells <500/ μl, T-SPOT.TB showed a higher sensitivity than TST (64.5% vs. 22.6% and 62.2% vs. 29.7%, respectively, both P < 0.0001). In addition, the sensitivity of T-SPOT.TB assay in group HIV+ATB increased to >85% in patients with TB treatment for less than 1 month and CD4+ T cells ≥200/μl, while for patients treated for more than 3 months and CD4+ T cells <200/μl, the sensitivity was decreased to only 33.3%. Furthermore, the results could be generated by T-SPOT.TB assay within 24 hours, which was more rapid than TST with 48-72 hours. Conclusion: ELISPOT-based IFN-γ release assay is more sensitive and rapid for the diagnosis of TB infection in Chinese HIV-infected individuals with history of BCG vaccination, and could be an effective tool for guiding preventive treatment with isoniazid in latently infected people and for TB control in China.
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