Tuberculosis (TB)

If I have latent TB infection, how can I keep from developing active TB disease?

Many people who have latent TB infection never develop active TB disease. But some people who have latent TB infection are more likely to develop active TB disease than others. These people are at high risk for active TB disease. They include:

  • people with HIV infection

  • people who became infected with TB bacteria in the last 2 years

  • babies and young children

  • people who inject illegal drugs

  • people who are sick with other diseases that weaken the immune system

  • elderly people

  • people who were not treated correctly for TB in the past .

If you have latent TB infection (a positive TB skin test reaction or positive QFT) and you are in one of these high-risk groups, you need to take medicine to keep from developing active TB disease. This is called treatment for latent TB infection. There are several treatment options. You and your health care provider must decide which treatment is best for you.

The medicine usually taken for the treatment of latent TB infection is called isoniazid (INH). INH kills the TB bacteria that are in the body. If you take your medicine as instructed by your doctor or nurse, it can keep you from developing active TB disease. Children and people with HIV infection may need to take INH for a longer time.

Because there are less bacteria in a person with latent TB infection, treatment is much easier. Usually, only one drug is needed to treat latent TB infection. A person with active TB disease has a large amount of TB bacteria in the body. Several drugs are needed to treat active TB disease.

Sometimes people are given treatment for latent TB infection even if their skin test reaction is not positive. This is often done with infants, children, and HIV-infected people who have recently spent time with someone with active TB disease. This is because they are at very high risk of developing active TB disease soon after they become infected with TB bacteria.

It is important that you take all the pills as prescribed. If you start taking INH, you will need to see your doctor or nurse on a regular schedule. He or she will check on how you are doing. Some people have serious side effects from INH. If you have any of the following side effects, call your doctor or nurse right away:

  • no appetite

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • yellowish skin or eyes

  • fever for 3 or more days

  • abdominal pain

  • tingling in the fingers and toes.

Warning: Drinking alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and liquor) while taking INH can be dangerous. Check with your doctor or nurse for more information.

People who have latent TB infection need to know the symptoms of active TB disease. If they develop symptoms of active TB disease, they should see a doctor right away.

What if I have HIV infection?

A person can have latent TB infection for years. But if that person's immune system gets weak, the infection can quickly turn into active TB disease. Also, if a person who has a weak immune system spends time with someone with active TB disease, he or she may become infected with TB bacteria and quickly develop active TB disease.

Because HIV infection weakens the immune system, people with latent TB infection and HIV infection are at very high risk of developing active TB disease. All persons with HIV infection should be tested to find out if they have latent TB infection. If they have latent TB infection, they need treatment as soon as possible to prevent them from developing active TB disease. If they have active TB disease, they must take medicine to cure the disease.

Active TB disease can be prevented and cured, even in people with HIV infection.

Next Page: Treatment for Active Infections

Previous Page: Testing

Return to TB Main Page

 

Important disclaimer: The information on pkids.org is for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice. It is not meant to replace the advice of the physician who cares for your child. All medical advice and information should be considered to be incomplete without a physical exam, which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.


Information is the power
parents have over disease.