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Terminology of Tuberculosis Tests

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  • 0:00 Tuberculosis Vaccine
  • 0:35 Tuberculin Skin Testing
  • 1:19 Tuberculin Tine Testing
  • 2:30 Mantoux PPD Skin Test
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson defines the two major tests used in testing for tuberculosis: the tuberculin tine test and the Mantoux PPD (Tuberculin) skin test. It also defines antigen and tuberculin.

Tuberculosis Vaccine

Having been born outside of the U.S., I have been vaccinated against tuberculosis. This is not something routinely done to kids born in the U.S., however.

While the upside to the tuberculosis vaccine is better protection against the disease, the downside is that every single time I get tested for tuberculosis, I get a positive reaction because of the vaccine and have to get chest x-rays to make sure it's just a false alarm and nothing more. Let's review the terminology related to this tuberculosis testing.

Tuberculin Skin Testing

Tuberculin Skin Testing is a screening test for tuberculosis. In such a skin test, a harmless antigen extracted from tuberculosis-causing bacteria is injected into the skin of the arm.

If antigen sounds like a foreign word to you, let me explain what it is. An antigen is a substance that is regarded by the body as foreign, one that elicits an immune response from the body as a result. Basically, an antigen is a foreign invader, one which the body tries to destroy.

Tuberculin is a term for a sterile solution that contains antigens extracted from tuberculosis-causing bacteria (such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis).

Tuberculin Tine Testing

One tuberculin skin test is called the Tuberculin Tine Test, a tuberculin skin test where the antigen is injected into the skin with several small prongs called tines. As I mentioned before, this test is usually performed on the arm, so long as the skin is free and clear of things like irritation. This is because the test itself is supposed to irritate the affected skin, causing it to turn red and swollen if the results are positive.

The spiked instrument injects tuberculosis antigen under the skin and the injected area is checked for a reaction in two to three days' time.

If the test comes back positive because the area that was injected is red and swollen, that doesn't necessarily mean a person has active tuberculosis. It may alternatively mean that the person was exposed to tuberculosis in the past.

This is why a chest x-ray is taken to ensure there is no active tuberculosis, in cases of a positive tine test or the test discussed next is used to verify the results of the tine test, especially in cases where there is a doubtful reaction to the tine test.

Mantoux PPD Skin Test

With that in mind, the tuberculin tine test is less accurate than the Mantoux PPD (Tuberculin) Skin Test, the one I've gotten when I've been tested for tuberculosis.

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