Biomarker changes associated with Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) conversion: a two-year longitudinal follow-up study in exposed household contacts.

Document Type



Pathology and Microbiology


Background:A high prevalence (50-80%) of Tuberculin Skin Test Positivity (TST+ >or=10 mm indurations) has been reported in TB endemic countries. This pool forms a huge reservoir for new incident TB cases. However, immune biomarkers associated with TST conversion are largely unknown. The objective of this study was to identify immune biomarkers associated with TST conversion after acute Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) exposure.

Methodology/Principal Findings:

A 24 month longitudinal study was carried out in a recently MTB exposed cohort of household contacts (HC = 93, 75% TST+). Control group consisted of unexposed community controls (EC = 59, 46%TST+). Cytokine secretion was assessed in whole blood cultures in response to either mycobacterial culture filtrate (CF) antigens or mitogens (PHA or LPS) using Elisa methodology. Compared to the EC group, the HC group at recruitment (Kruskal-Wallis Test) showed significantly suppressed IFN gamma (p = 0.0001), raised IL-10 (p = 0.0005) and raised TNF alpha (p = 0.001) in response to CF irrespective of their TST status. Seventeen TST-HC, showed TST conversion when retested at 6 months. Post TST conversion (paired t tests) significant increases were observed for CF induced IFN gamma (p = 0.038), IL-10 (p = 0.001) and IL-6 (p = 0.006). Cytokine responses were also compared in the exposed HC group with either recent infection [(TST converters (N = 17)] or previous infection [TST+ HC (N = 54)] at 0, 6, 12 and 24 months using ANOVA on repeated measures. Significant differences between the exposed HC groups were noted only at 6 months. CF induced IFN gamma was higher in previously infected HC group (p = 0.038) while IL-10 was higher in recently infected HC group (p = 0.041). Mitogen induced cytokine secretion showed similar differences for different group.


Our results suggest that TST conversion is associated with early increases in IFN gamma and IL-10 responses and precedes latency by several months post exposure.


Plos One