Tuberculosis (TB) - Treatment Overview

Doctors treat tuberculosis (TB) with antibiotics to kill the TB bacteria. These medicines are given to everyone who has TB, including infants, children, pregnant women, and people who have a weakened immune system.

Treatment for active tuberculosis

Health experts recommend:4

Treatment for latent tuberculosis

Experts recommend one of the following:

  • Using one medicine to kill the TB bacteria and prevent active TB.
    • The standard treatment is isoniazid taken for 9 months. For people who cannot take isoniazid for 9 months, sometimes a 6-month treatment program is done.1
    • Treatment with rifampin for 4 months is another choice. This is an acceptable alternate treatment, especially for people who have been exposed to bacteria that are resistant to isoniazid.1
  • Taking two antibiotics once a week for 12 weeks to kill the TB bacteria.5 For this treatment, a health professional watches you take each dose of antibiotics. Taking every dose of antibiotic helps prevent the TB bacteria from getting resistant to the antibiotics. The antibiotic combinations include isoniazid and rifapentine or isoniazid and rifampin.

Treatment is recommended for anyone with a skin test that shows a TB infection, and is especially important for people who:

  • Are known to or are likely to be infected with HIV.
  • Have close contact with a person who has active TB.
  • Have a chest X-ray that suggests a TB infection and have not had a complete course of treatment.
  • Inject illegal drugs.
  • Have medical conditions or take medicines that weaken the immune system.


Treatment for extrapulmonary tuberculosis

Treatment for tuberculosis in parts of the body other than the lungs (extrapulmonary TB) usually is the same as for pulmonary TB. You may need other medicines or forms of treatment depending on where the infection is in the body and whether complications develop.

You may need treatment in a hospital if you have:

  • Severe symptoms.
  • TB that is resistant to multiple-drug therapy.

What to think about

If treatment is not successful, the TB infection can flare up again (relapse). People who have relapses usually have them within 6 to 12 months after treatment. Treatment for relapse is based on the severity of the disease and which medicines were used during the first treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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