Background - Tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) [(Zopf 1883) Lehmann and Neumann 1896], is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Nearly one-third of the world’s population is infected with MTB; TB has an annual incidence of 9 million new cases and each year causes 2 million deaths worldwide.
Objectives - To investigate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of screening tests [interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) and tuberculin skin tests (TSTs)] in latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) diagnosis to support National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline development for three population groups: children, immunocompromised people and those who have recently arrived in the UK from high-incidence countries. All of these groups are at higher risk of progression from LTBI to active TB.
Results - In total, 6687 records were screened, of which 53 unique studies were included (a further 37 studies were identified from a previous NICE guideline). The majority of the included studies compared the strength of association for the QFT-GIT/G IGRA with the TST (5 mm or 10 mm) in relation to the incidence of active TB or previous TB exposure. Ten studies reported evidence on decision-analytic models to determine the cost-effectiveness of IGRAs compared with the TST for LTBI diagnosis. In children, TST (≥ 5 mm) negative followed by QFT-GIT was the most cost-effective strategy, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of £18,900 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained. In immunocompromised people, QFT-GIT negative followed by the TST (≥ 5 mm) was the most cost-effective strategy, with an ICER of approximately £18,700 per QALY gained. In those recently arrived from high TB incidence countries, the TST (≥ 5 mm) alone was less costly and more effective than TST (≥ 5 mm) positive followed by QFT-GIT or T-SPOT.TB or QFT-GIT alone.
Conclusions - Given the current evidence, TST (≥ 5 mm) negative followed by QFT-GIT for children, QFT-GIT negative followed by TST (≥ 5 mm) for the immunocompromised population and TST (≥ 5 mm) for recent arrivals were the most cost-effective strategies for diagnosing LTBI that progresses to active TB. These results should be interpreted with caution given the limitations identified. The evidence available is limited and more high-quality research in this area is needed including studies on the inconsistent performance of tests in high-compared with low-incidence TB settings; the prospective assessment of progression to active TB for those at high risk; the relative benefits of two-compared with one-step testing with different tests; and improved classification of people at high and low risk for LTBI.