How a TB Blood Test Works and Who Should Get It Done?

Getting tested for tuberculosis (TB) is an essential way to protect not only yourself but also your loved ones and the community you live in. The standard TB test, which is a skin test, has been used for many years to diagnose TB infections, but it is not always reliable. The good news is that there is a new testing method in town, which is fast, reliable, and doesn't require a follow-up exam. Know how a TB blood test works, why it is a better TB testing method, and who should get it done.

What is a TB Blood Test and How Does It Work?
Unlike the skin test, a TB blood test detects TB infection with a laboratory examination of a blood sample. The test checks for the presence of a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis), which causes TB disease. The test measures the immune system's reaction to the M. tuberculosis proteins injected into the bloodstream, indicating that an individual has been infected with TB bacteria at some point. The blood test is also called an interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) and is available in two types: the QuantiFERON-TB Gold and T-SPOT.TB.

Why is a TB Blood Test a Better Testing Method?
A TB blood test is more reliable in detecting active and latent TB infections than the skin test. Unlike the skin test, it is not affected by previous TB vaccinations, although it requires a one-time blood draw. A TB blood test results are also available within a day or two, unlike the skin test, which requires follow-up appointments. Moreover, a TB blood test significantly reduces false-positive results since it can differentiate between TB bacteria and non-tuberculous mycobacteria, which may produce positive skin test results.

Who Should Get a TB Blood Test?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends TB screening for individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease, including those who are:

•    Exposed to someone with active TB disease
•    Born or traveled to areas with high TB rates
•    Immune-compromised due to a medical condition or medication
•    Living or working in detention centers, hospitals, or homeless shelters
•    Substance abusers or have HIV infection

What Happens After a TB Blood Test?
After taking the blood test, the results indicate whether you have TB infection or not. If the results show no TB infection, no further testing is required. However, if the results show active TB infection, your doctor will advise you on how to proceed with TB treatment. If the results show latent TB infection, your doctor will advise you to take TB medicine to prevent the disease's development.

How to Prepare for a TB Blood Test?
The TB blood test is quick and straightforward; typically, no special preparation is needed. Avoid eating fatty or fried foods before your test to ensure the best results. Inform your doctor of any medications or supplements you may be taking, as they can interfere with the test results.

In conclusion, the TB blood test is a better, faster, and more reliable testing method that should be the go-to for TB testing. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to or may have the TB infection should take the test, especially high-risk individuals. Once you take the test, the results will show if you have TB infection, and with the guidance of your doctor, you can take the necessary steps to prevent the disease's development and spread. Go ahead and get tested today!