Nationwide Shortage of Tuberculin Skin Test Antigens: CDC Recommendations for Patient Care and Public Health Practice

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CDC is expecting a 3–10 month nationwide shortage of Aplisol, a product of Par Pharmaceuticals, and one of two purified-protein derivative (PPD) tuberculin antigens licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in performing tuberculin skin tests. This time frame is the manufacturer’s current estimate and is subject to change. The manufacturer notified CDC that they anticipate an interruption of supply of Aplisol 5 mL (50 multidose vials) beginning in June 2019, followed by an interruption of the supply of Aplisol 1 mL (10 multidose vials) in November 2019. The expected shortage of Aplisol 1 mL could occur before November 2019 if demand increases before then. Information on the status of this supply interruption will be updated at FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research–Regulated Products: Current Shortages website ( icon). This report includes CDC recommendations for mitigating a reduction in tuberculosis (TB) testing capability resulting from the anticipated Aplisol shortage (1).

Two types of immunological methods (tuberculin skin tests [TSTs] and interferon-gamma release assay [IGRA] blood tests) are used for detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. TSTs and IGRAs are used for the diagnosis of latent TB infection and can aid in the diagnosis of TB disease, but additional evaluation and testing is necessary to distinguish between latent TB infection and TB disease to determine the appropriate treatment (2). When findings such as chest radiography and mycobacterial cultures are sufficient for confirming or excluding a TB diagnosis, the results from a TST or an IGRA blood test might not be needed (2). However, most TB cases in the United States are diagnosed through a combination of findings, including results from one of these tests. When TB disease is strongly suspected, specific treatment should be initiated, regardless of results from TST or an IGRA blood test (3,4).

Two FDA-approved PPD tuberculin antigen products are available in the United States for use in performing TSTs: Tubersol (Sanofi-Pasteur) and Aplisol. In controlled studies, the concordance between the two products is high (5).


CDC recommends the following three general approaches to mitigate a reduction in TB testing capability resulting from the expected shortage of Aplisol:

• Substitute IGRA blood tests for TSTs. Clinicians who use the IGRA blood tests should be aware that the criteria for test interpretation are different from the criteria for interpreting TSTs (3).

• Substitute Tubersol for Aplisol for skin testing. In studies, the two skin test products give similar results for most patients (5).

• Prioritize allocation of TSTs, in consultation with state and local public health authorities. Prioritization might require the deferment of testing some persons. CDC recommends testing only for persons who are at risk for TB (68). Groups at high risk for TB infection include 1) persons who are recent contacts exposed to persons with TB disease; 2) those born in or who frequently travel to countries where TB disease is common; 3) those who currently or previously lived in large group settings (such as homeless shelters or correctional facilities); 4) persons with compromised immune systems, including those with health conditions or taking medications that might alter immunity; and 5) children, especially those aged <5 years, if they are in one of the risk groups noted above.

Although overall test concordance is high, switching between PPD skin test products or TSTs and blood tests in serial testing might result in apparent conversions from negative to positive or reversions from positive to negative that might be attributable to inherent interproduct or intermethod discordance rather than change in M. tuberculosis infection status (3,9). Clinicians should assess test results based on the person’s likelihood of infection and risk for progression to TB disease, if infected (2).

In settings with a low likelihood of TB exposure, the deferment of routine serial testing should be considered in consultation with public health and occupational health authorities. Annual TB testing of health care personnel is not recommended unless there is a known exposure or ongoing transmission (9).


  1. CDC Health Alert Network. Nationwide shortage of tuberculin skin test antigens: CDC recommendations for patient care and public health practice. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2019.
  2. Lewinsohn DM, Leonard MK, LoBue PA, et al. Official American Thoracic Society/Infectious Diseases Society of America/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical practice guidelines: diagnosis of tuberculosis in adults and children. Clin Infect Dis 2017;64:e1–33. CrossRefexternal icon PubMedexternal icon
  3. Mazurek GH, Jereb J, Vernon A, LoBue P, Goldberg S, Castro K; IGRA Expert Committee; CDC. Updated guidelines for using interferon gamma release assays to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection—United States, 2010. MMWR Recomm Rep 2010;59(No. RR-5). PubMedexternal icon
  4. Nahid P, Dorman SE, Alipanah N, et al. Official American Thoracic Society/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Infectious Diseases Society of America clinical practice guidelines: treatment of drug-susceptible tuberculosis. Clin Infect Dis 2016;63:e147–95. CrossRefexternal icon PubMedexternal icon
  5. Villarino ME, Burman W, Wang YC, et al. Comparable specificity of 2 commercial tuberculin reagents in persons at low risk for tuberculous infection. JAMA 1999;281:169–71. CrossRefexternal icon PubMedexternal icon
  6. American Thoracic Society; CDC. Targeted tuberculin testing and treatment of latent tuberculosis infection. MMWR Recomm Rep 2000;49(No. RR-6). PubMedexternal icon
  7. CDC. Guidelines for the investigation of contacts of persons with infectious tuberculosis; recommendations from the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association and CDC, and guidelines for using the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold test for detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, United States. MMWR Recomm Rep 2005;54(No. RR-15).
  8. Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC, Curry SJ, et al. ; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for latent tuberculosis infection in adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA 2016;316:962–9. CrossRefexternal icon PubMedexternal icon
  9. Sosa LE, Njie GJ, Lobato MN, et al. . Tuberculosis screening, testing, and treatment of U.S. health care personnel: recommendations from the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association and CDC, 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:439–43. CrossRefexternal icon PubMedexternal icon

Suggested citation for this article: Nationwide Shortage of Tuberculin Skin Test Antigens: CDC Recommendations for Patient Care and Public Health Practice. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:552–553. DOI: icon.

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