How is TB disease treated?

It takes a long time to kill all the TB bacteria. A person with TB disease typically must take 4 different medicines for 2 months:

  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampin
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Ethambutol

Then take Isoniazid and Rifampin for another 4-7 months depending on how much damage the bacteria have caused.

This treatment has been successful in treating TB disease for many years. In recent years, some TB bacteria strains have become resistant, (the medicines no longer kill the TB bacteria) to one or more of these drugs.

Multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB is resistant to the two strongest TB medicines, Rifampin and Isoniazid. The most common cause of drug resistance occurs when TB medications are not taken long enough and/or in the right amounts. Drug resistant TB is much more difficult and expensive to successfully treat. Extremely drug resistant (XDR) TB is a less common form of multi-drug resistant TB. There is resistance to Isoniazid and Rifampin, as well as most of the alternative drugs used against MDR TB. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention urges all health care practitioners to use directly observed therapy (DOT) in the treatment of tuberculosis.