2.2. Recommendation

2.2. Recommendation

2.2.1. Justification

A systematic review has informed the comparison of the predictive performance of IGRAs and the TST for identifying incident active TB in countries with a TB incidence of more than 100 per 100 000 population (12). Only studies in which the TST was compared with IGRAs in the same population (i.e. “head-to-head” studies) were included. Relative risk ratios for TB for people who tested positive and those who tested negative with the TST and IGRAs were estimated.

Five prospective cohort studies were identified, with a total of 7769 participants. The pooled risk ratio estimate for the TST was 1.49 (95% CI: 0.79–2.80), and for IGRAs was 2.03 (95% CI: 1.18–3.50). Although the estimate for IGRAs was slightly higher than that for the TST, the 95% CIs for the estimates for the TST and IGRAs overlapped and were imprecise.

The GDG concluded that the comparison of the TST and IGRAs in the same population does not provide strong evidence that one test should be preferred over the other for predicting progression to active TB disease. The TST may require significantly fewer resources than IGRAs and may be more familiar to practitioners in resource-limited settings; however, recurrent global shortages and stock-outs of the TST reduce prospects for the scale-up of this test and for the programmatic management of TPT. The GDG also noted that equity and access could affect the choice and type of test used. The preferences of people to be tested and programmes depend on several factors, such as the requirement for an adequately equipped laboratory (e.g. for IGRAs) and possible additional costs for people being tested (e.g. for travel) and programmes (e.g. for infrastructure and testing). The GDG strongly recommended the two tests as equivalent options, with relatively similar advantages and disadvantages. The GDG stressed that the global shortage of the TST should be addressed urgently, and called for more investment into research on novel tests for TB infection with better predictive value. The GDG cautioned that imperfect performance of these tests can lead to false negative results, particularly in young children and immunocompromised individuals such as People with HIV with low CD4 counts. The GDG noted the importance of the tests to identify recent conversion from negative to positive, particularly among contacts of people with pulmonary TB, which is good practice when initiating TPT. Nevertheless, recent studies among health care workers in the USA tested serially for TB infection showed that conversions from negative to positive and reversions from positive to negative are more commonly identified with IGRAs than with the TST (13). Thus, clinical judgement must still be used to interpret the results of serial TB infection tests.

The evidence reviewed and the recommendations given apply only to the use of the two commercially available IGRAs (QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube and T-Spot.

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