Screening for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) can help prevent progression to active disease, and the availability of effective tests supports screening asymptomatic adults aged 18 years and older at increased risk for infection, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The recommendations were published online Sept. 6 in JAMA.
“The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that the net benefit of screening for LTBI in persons at increased risk for tuberculosis is moderate,” wrote lead author Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues ( JAMA 2016 Sep 6;316:962-9 ).
TB infection spreads through the coughing or sneezing of someone with active disease. Individuals at high risk for TB include those who are immunocompromised, residents of long-term care facilities or correctional facilities, or homeless individuals, as well as those born in countries known to have a high incidence of TB, including China, India, Mexico, and Vietnam.
Other populations at increased risk for TB are contacts of patients with active TB, health care workers, and workers in high-risk settings, the researchers noted.
TB remains a preventable disease in the United States, with a prevalence of approximately 5%, the researchers said. The two most effective screening tests, tuberculin skin test (TST) and interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA), demonstrated sensitivity and specificity of 79% and 97%, and at least 80% and 95%, respectively.
The recommendations are supported by an evidence review, also published in JAMA ( 2016 Sep 6;316:970-83 ). The review included 72 studies and 51,711 adults.
The studies in the evidence review did not assess the benefits vs. harms of TB screening, compared with no screening, noted Leila C. Kahwati, MD, of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and her colleagues.
“The applicability of the evidence on accuracy and reliability of screening tests to primary care practice settings and populations is uncertain for several reasons,” the investigators said. However, the findings suggest that “treatment reduced the risk of active TB among the populations included in this review.”
The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.