Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most deadly diseases in the world, and it affects 25% of the entire world’s population. The disease is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis; it can be contracted if you inhale droplets expelled from an infected individual when they sneeze or cough.
However, it may be encouraging to know that while TB is spread in a way akin to the cold or flu, it isn’t as infectious as either illness. In order to contract TB, one would have to spend several hours in close proximity with someone sick with TB. Furthermore, not everyone who has TB is able to spread it. Those with extrapulmonary TB (aka TB that occurs solely outside of the lungs) and children with the disease are unable to spread it.
But how is TB treated?
The Mayo Clinic calls medications the “cornerstones” of treating TB, though treating the disease takes longer than what you may consider the average bacterial infection. If you have active TB, you’ll have to be on antibiotics for anywhere from at least six to nine months; the exact drugs you’ll need to be on and how long your treatment will last depends on a number of factors, including potential drug resistance, the infection’s location in your body, your age, as well as your general health. If you have latent TB, you might only need to take one or two types of TB drugs; on the other hand, active TB–and drug-resistant strains in particular–need multiple drugs taken concurrently.
The most common TB medications are:
- Ethambutol (aka Myambutol)
- Rifampin (aka Rimactane, Rifadin)
The recommended medications–and regimen–are different if you have drug-resistant TB. Doctors will generally recommend a combination of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones and injectable medications like capreomycin (Capstat) or amikacin. In this case, you’ll likely be on this regimen for between 20 and 30 months. And unfortunately, some forms of TB are becoming resistant to these medications. Your doctor may also prescribe add-on drugs, such as:
- Linezolid (Zyvox)
- Bedaquiline (Sirturo)
An Ezra scan may pick up signs of tuberculosis. You can learn more about our screening options here.