Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA) are now available alternatives to tuberculin skin testing (TST) for detection of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). We compared the cost-effectiveness of TST and IGRA in different populations and clinical situations, and with variation of a number of parameters.
Markov modelling was used to compare expected TB cases and costs over 20 years following screening for TB with different strategies among hypothetical cohorts of foreign-born entrants to Canada, or contacts of TB cases. The less expensive commercial IGRA, Quanti-FERON-TB Gold (QFT), was examined. Model inputs were derived from published literature.
For entering immigrants, screening with chest radiograph (CXR) would be the most and QFT the least cost-effective. Sequential screening with TST then QFT was more cost-effective than QFT alone in all scenarios, and more cost-effective than TST alone in selected subgroups. Among close and casual contacts, screening with TST or QFT would be cost saving; savings with TST would be greater than with QFT, except in contacts who were bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccinated after infancy.
Screening for LTBI, with TST or QFT, is cost-effective only if the risk of disease is high. The most cost-effective use of QFT is to test TST-positive persons.