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Tuberculosis Treatment

Tuberculosis is a life-threatening disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria can attack any part of the body, but the lungs are most commonly affected. The disease spreads through germs in the air when a patient coughs or sneezes, speaks, spits, etc.

If you have been the in same space as someone infected with tuberculosis disease, you should be tested by your doctor or the health department.

However, not everyone who is in contact with an infected patient’s germs becomes sick. Latent tuberculosis infection means that a person has been in contact with the bacteria, but has not developed the disease. Tuberculosis disease means the bacteria are active and multiplying. Both must be treated.


People with latent tuberculosis infection do not show symptoms. However, the bacteria can become active at any time so these patients are prescribed treatment to prevent the infection from becoming tuberculosis disease. Treating and controlling cases of latent tuberculosis infection is crucial for eradicating the disease.

Patients with latent tuberculosis have fewer tuberculosis bacteria in their body than patients with active tuberculosis, so treatment is faster with fewer doses. While active tuberculosis requires many different medications during treatment, latent tuberculosis requires fewer. The medications can include:

  • isoniazid (INH)
  • rifampin (RIF)
  • rifapentine (RPT)
Treatment typically lasts 3-9 months depending upon the regimen used.


The symptoms for tuberculosis disease may seem like symptoms of more common illnesses such as the flu. Be sure to go to the doctor if these symptoms are suspected:

  • Weakness;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Fever and night sweats;
  • Chest pain;
  • Coughing up blood.

Patients with active tuberculosis must take medication for 6 to 9 months. The physician will write out an exact regiment. Taking several different medications during treatment is essential to prevent the tuberculosis bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed medications are:

  • isoniazid (INH)
  • rifampin (RIF)
  • ethambutol (EMB)
  • pyrazinamide (PZA)
If patients with active tuberculosis do not take all of the prescribed medication or stop taking the medication too soon they will become sick again. If patients are not careful with the prescribed dosage and time windows for taking the medication, the bacteria may become resistant to particular medications and then require further treatment.

Patients with active tuberculosis will still be contagious for a few weeks into their treatment. Patients are usually cured after completing the entire medication regimen exactly the way prescribed by the physician.

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