BACKGROUND: Smoking is a risk factor for tuberculosis (TB) infection and disease progression. Tobacco smoking increases susceptibility to TB in a variety of ways, one of which is due to a reduction of the IFN-γ response. Consequently, an impaired immune response could affect performance of IFN-γ Release Assays (IGRAs).

OBJECTIVE: In the present study, we assess the impact of direct tobacco smoking on radiological manifestations, sputum conversion and immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, analyzing IFN-γ secretion by IGRAs.

METHODS: A total of 525 participants were studied: (i) 175 active pulmonary TB patients and (ii) 350 individuals coming from contact tracing studies, 41 of whom were secondary TB cases. Clinical, radiological and microbiological data were collected. T-SPOT.TB and QFN-G-IT were processed according manufacturer's instructions.

RESULTS: In smoking patients with active TB, QFN-G-IT (34.4%) and T-SPOT.TB (19.5%) had high frequencies of negative results. In addition, by means of an unconditional logistic regression, smoking was a main factor associated with IGRAs' false-negative results (aOR: 3.35; 95%CI:1.47-7.61; p<0.05). Smoking patients with active TB presented a high probability of having cavitary lesions (aOR: 1.88; 95%CI:1.02-3.46;p<0.05). Mean culture negativization (months) ± standard deviation (SD) was higher in smokers than in non-smokers (2.47±1.3 versus 1.69±1.4). Latent TB infection (LTBI) was favored in smoking contacts, being a risk factor associated with infection (aOR: 11.57; 95%CI:5.97-22.41; p<0.00005). The IFN-γ response was significantly higher in non-smokers than in smokers. Smoking quantity and IFN-γ response analyzed by IGRAs were dose-dependent related.

CONCLUSIONS: Smoking had a negative effect on radiological manifestations, delaying time of sputum conversion. Our data establish a link between tobacco smoking and TB due to a weakened IFN-γ response caused by direct tobacco smoke.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0182998
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2017


  • Adult
  • Contact Tracing
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma Release Tests/methods
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoke/adverse effects
  • Smoking
  • Spain
  • Tobacco
  • Tuberculosis/complications


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