Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is a clinically distinct category of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection that needs to be diagnosed at the initial stage. We have reported earlier that one of the Mtb proline-proline-glutamic acid (PPE) proteins, PPE17 (Rv1168c) is associated with stronger B-cell and T-cell responses and could be used to diagnose different clinical categories of active TB patients with higher specificity and sensitivity than PPD and ESAT-6. Based on these observations we further tested the potential of PPE17 for the diagnosis of LTBI. We tested 198 sera samples collected from LTBI individuals (n = 61), QFT-negative (n = 58) and active TB patients (n = 79). Individuals were defined as LTBI by QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube test (QFT–GIT) positive results, while active TB patients were confirmed based on the guidelines of the Revised National TB Control Programme of India. The antibody responses against PPE17, ESAT-6:CFP-10 and PPD were compared in these subjects by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We observed that LTBI individuals show a higher sero-reactivity to PPE17 as compared to currently used latent TB diagnostic antigens like ESAT-6, CFP-10 and PPD. The LTBI and active TB patients display almost similar sensitivity. Interestingly, PPE17 could discriminate LTBI positive subjects from the QFT-negative subjects (P < 0.001). Our study hints that PPE17 may be used as a novel serodiagnostic marker to screen the latently infected subjects and may also be used as a complimentary tool to the QFT–GIT.
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