Treating Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
People infected with tuberculosis (TB) bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant need special treatment programs. People with a weakened immune system are more likely to get drug-resistant TB. These include people infected with HIV or people who have had an organ transplant.
Treatment usually involves at least four medicines.1
- A treatment program using four to six medicines appears to be best. The choice of medicines depends on the results of sensitivity testing.
- Most treatment programs involve isoniazid, rifampin, and pyrazinamide, along with one to three second-choice medicines.
- Second-choice medicines used to treat drug-resistant TB usually have more side effects than the first-choice medicines. Second-choice medicines include streptomycin, capreomycin, ethionamide, kanamycin, ofloxacin, para-aminosalicylic acid, and rifabutin.
- It is very important to take every dose of medicine. So directly observed therapy (DOT) usually is done. During DOT, a health professional watches you take every dose of medicine.
- Treatment is continued until TB bacteria can no longer be found in two sputum samples taken a month apart. This may take 18 months or longer in people with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).
Some TB bacteria have become resistant to all of the antibiotics that are commonly used to treat TB. This is sometimes called totally resistant tuberculosis (TDR-TB).2 A TB infection of this type is very difficult to treat.
- American Thoracic Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Infectious Diseases Society of America (2003). Treatment of tuberculosis. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 167(4): 603–662.
- Cegielski P, et al. (2012). Challenges and controversies in defining totally drug-resistant tuberculosis. Emerging Infectious Diseases [Internet], November. Available online:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology|
|Last Revised||April 4, 2013|
Last Revised: April 4, 2013
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.