Tuberculin Test

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The tuberculin test (also known as the Mantoux test) is a test performed to detect whether an individual is actively immune to a specific antigen from Tuberculosis (TB). Active immunity refers to when an individual has been introduced to a specific antigen often by vaccination using an antigen or dead/weakened form of the pathogen. The body's immune system produces a primary immune response within the individual, resulting in B lymphocytes (B cells) producing memory cells specific for the vaccinated antigen. Therefore if the individual comes in contact with the same antigen in the future, the memory cells will recognise this antigen and rapidly produce large numbers of antibodies to destroy it. This is termed the secondary response and occurs at a rapid speed due to memory cells present from the primary infection[1].

The tuberculin test involves the injection of a purified protein derivative from the disease-causing pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis into an individual[2]. A skin reaction may occur consisting of a red hard lump that will develop over a few days. If a reaction is observed at the site of injection, this indicates that the individual has a latent form of tuberculosis or has previously been immunised due to having the specific antibodies present to destroy the antigen. If no skin reaction is observed, this means that the individual does not possess any antibodies specific to the tuberculosis antigen so it cannot be destroyed by the body's immune system[3].


  1. Kenneth M. Murphy. Janeway's Immunobiology. 8th edition. Publisher: Garland Science. August 20th 2012.
  2. Rose DN, Schechter CB, Adler JJ. Interpretation of the tuberculin skin test. Department of Community Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA. November 1995. Volume 10.
  3. NHS Choices - Diagnosing tuberculosis [ONLINE] 15/11/2016. Accessed: 19th October 2017. Available at:
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