Medical microbiology and immunology 2017 03 15() doi 10.1007/s00430-017-0501-6
IFN-γ release assays (IGRAs) often present false-negative or indeterminate results in children with tuberculosis. HIV co-infection may contribute to decreased sensitivity of IGRAs by impairing T-cell IFN-γ expression. Measurement of alternative cytokines in QuantiFERON(®) (QFT) supernatants can circumvent the IFN-γ-dependency and may improve QFT sensitivity. We aimed to identify additional cytokines from QFT supernatants for detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in children with tuberculosis and HIV co-infection from Ghana. Concentrations of 18 cytokines in QFT supernatants from children (0-16 years) with tuberculosis concomitantly infected with HIV (n = 25) or without HIV (n = 24) from Ghana were measured using cytometric bead array (CBA). 29% of the children showed positive IFN-γ test results, and five cytokines, i.e., IL-6, IL-21, TNF-α, IL-1α and IP-10, detected M. tuberculosis infection with comparable or, for IL-6, with significantly higher sensitivity (59%). Increased age and HIV co-infection were associated with decreased cytokine induction, and especially IL-21 and IP-10 were less prevalent in HIV co-infected children with tuberculosis. Combined cytokine analyses increased proportions of positive tests, and a four-cytokine subset (i.e., IL-6, IL-21, IFN-γ, IL-1α) predicted 78% of the children with tuberculosis correctly. Combined evaluation of IFN-γ and alternative cytokines improved IGRA-sensitivity in children with tuberculosis.