Treatment of latent tuberculosis is set to transform after a pair of studies from the Research-Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) revealed that a shorter treatment was safer and more effective in children and adults compared to the current standard.
Led by Dr. Dick Menzies, the study followed 850 children and 6,800 adults with latent TB, a dormant version of the disease that does not cause symptoms but may lead to serious illness if treatment is not provided. This study in children is one of the largest for a pediatric clinical trial related to TB.
Dr. Menzies’ team compared results among latent TB patients who underwent the current standard treatment of nine months of isoniazid (INH) or a four-month treatment with rifampin. Over 85 per cent of children completed rifampin without developing active TB compared to 76 per cent of children who completed isoniazid, with two developing active TB. Results were similar in adults; acceptance and completion of rifampin therapy was much better with significantly fewer serious side effects, particularly drug induced hepatitis (INH can cause serious liver toxicity which can prove fatal or require a liver transplant).
In addition to being a much shorter treatment, the rates of development of active TB were slightly lower with rifampin, indicating that it is at least as effective as the nine-month treatment of INH in preventing TB.
With patients who originated from nine different countries (Australia, Benin, Brazil, Canada, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea) in a study supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Dr. Menzies expects the findings to have a major impact on shaping future global guidelines related to treating latent TB.
Treatment of latent TB infection is a key part of the End TB strategy & TB-elimination plans in high-income countries from the WHO. One-quarter of the global population is infected with latent TB and 10 per cent of these will develop active TB.
The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and healthcare research centre. The Institute, which is affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, is the research arm of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) – an academic health centre located in Montreal, Canada, that has a mandate to focus on complex care within its community.