Elevated Circulating Concentrations of Interferon-Gamma in Latent Tuberculosis Infection

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Moises Arturo Huaman
George S. Deepe, Jr.
Carl J. Fichtenbaum


Background: Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) has been associated with increased immune activation. We assessed circulating concentrations of interferon-gamma in persons with LTBI.

Methods: We used the 2011-2012 National Health Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) to identify adults with and without LTBI by QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) results. Non-LTBI persons were 1:1 age-, gender- and race-matched to LTBI persons using propensity scores. We compared the plasma concentrations of interferon-gamma measured from the unstimulated, negative control QFT tube between LTBI and non-LTBI persons. We used Mann-Whitney tests and ordered logistic regressions for comparisons.

Results: There were 430 LTBI and 430 non-LTBI matched persons included in the analysis. LTBI was associated with higher circulating concentrations of interferon-gamma (median, 3 pg/mL; IQR, 2 – 5) compared to non-LTBI (median, 2.5 pg/mL; IQR, 1.5 – 3.5), P<0.001. LTBI remained associated with higher interferon-gamma concentrations after adjusting for age, gender, race, diabetes, hypertension, tobacco use, HIV status, body mass index, lipid profile and lymphocyte count (odds ratio, 1.79, 95% CI, 1.26 – 2.53). Results remained similar when LTBI was defined by tuberculin skin testing.

Conclusions: LTBI was associated with increased circulating interferon-gamma concentrations. Future studies are needed to further characterize immune activation in LTBI and its potential long-term consequences. 


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