Skin tests for the detection of Mycobacterial infections: achievements, current perspectives, and implications for other diseases.
Immunological and molecular advances have modernized diagnostic testing for many diseases. Although interferon gamma-release and polymerase chain reaction assays have been developed to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection, purified protein derivative (PPD)-based tuberculin skin testing (TST) remains the most widely used method. Indeed, the TST is a simple and cost-effective tool that can be easily applied for widespread screening for Mtb infection. However, the lack of specificity has been a limitation of these tests, and, more recently, supply issues have arisen. Building upon the skin tests that historically have been used within TB and leprosy control programs, we discuss recent developments using modern technologies for improving mycobacterial skin testing as well as practical advantages inherent to the technique. Furthermore, we outline how this knowledge could be applied to develop similar tests that could benefit diagnostic strategies for other infections. KEY POINTS: • Skin testing provides a significantly cheaper alternative to most modern technologies. • Skin tests provide a lab-independent diagnostic strategy that can be widely administered. • Diseases for which T cell responses are more robust or durable than antibody responses are accessible for skin testing.