Latent tuberculosis infections in hard-to-reach drug using population - detection, prevention and control

Lu Yu Hwang, Carolyn Z. Grimes, R. Palmer Beasley, Edward A. Graviss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Interferon-γ release assays (IGRAs) need be evaluated for effectiveness as screening tests for tuberculosis (TB) infection in drug users. These tests have demonstrated improved sensitivity and specificity, but have not been studied in drug users. These one step blood tests are intended to replace the tuberculin skin test (TST), which is difficult to use and requires 48 hour follow-up, so they are expected to be particularly suitable for risk groups, like drug users, in whom follow-up is problematic. Drug users have traditionally been identified as being at increased risk for acquiring TB disease. The results of our pilot study using the TST and simpler and more sensitive interferon-gamma release assays showed that about 45% of current drug users in Houston tested have at least one test positive for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). These preliminary data suggest that there is an important reservoir of LTBI in drug using populations, and the risk of progression to active TB disease with other infections is great. However, LTBI in drug using populations has not been studied in depth and deserves further investigation. We need to evaluate the validity of IGRAs for detection of latent TB infection, the factors associated with LTBI, the incidence and risk for developing active TB disease in drug users and the effectiveness of early treatment of LTBI. We believe that using better tuberculosis screening tools will allow us to more accurately measure the prevalence of latent TB infection and incidence of active TB disease in drug using populations and develop more effective TB prevention and treatment interventions in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S41-S45
Issue numberSUPPL.1
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Drug users
  • Interferon gamma release assay
  • Latent tuberculosis infection
  • QFT
  • T-SPOT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)


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