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TB Treatment for Children

TB Treatment for Children

Once infected with TB bacteria, children are more likely than adults to get sick with TB disease and to get sick more quickly than adults. In comparison to children, TB disease in adults is usually due to past TB infection that becomes active years later, when a person’s immune system becomes weak for some reason (e.g., HIV infection, diabetes).

A pediatric TB expert should be involved in the treatment of TB in children and in the management of infants, young children, and immunocompromised children who have been exposed to someone with infectious TB disease. It is very important that children or anyone being treated for latent TB infection or TB disease take the drugs exactly as instructed by the doctor and finish the medicine.

Latent TB Infection Treatment for Children

Treatment is recommended for children with latent TB infection to prevent them from developing TB disease. Infants, young children, and immunocompromised children with latent TB infection or children in close contact with someone with infectious TB disease, require special consideration because they are at increased risk for getting TB disease. Consultation with a pediatric TB expert is recommended before treatment begins.

Children over 2 years of age can be treated for latent TB infection with once-weekly isoniazid-rifapentine for 12 weeks. Alternative treatments for latent TB infection in children include 4 months of daily rifampin or 9 months of daily isoniazid. The regimens are equally acceptable; however, health care providers should prescribe the more convenient shorter regimens, when possible.  Patients are more likely to complete shorter treatment regimens.

TB Disease Treatment for Children

TB disease is treated by taking several anti-TB medicines for 6 to 9 months. It is important to note that if a child stops taking the drugs before completion, the child can become sick again. If drugs are not taken correctly, the bacteria that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat, and treatment lasts much longer (up to 18 to 24 months).

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