Duration and Side Effects of Latent TB Treatment

Duration and Side Effects of Latent TB Treatment

Latent TB is when a person has TB causing bacteria that is dormant or asleep in their body system that have the ability to be active or awake and cause sick health with active TB. The suspected individual should be advised to visit a doctor to ascertain whether they have this bacterium.

If the doctor through test finds out the individual has the bacteria, should recommend treatment immediately, before the start of treatment the doctor should explain some of the side effects of latent TB treatment.

What Causes Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is a disease that is brought about by bacteria known as Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. If a person has TB in their lungs and coughs or sneezes, the TB bacteria are released into the atmosphere. If another person breathes the bacteria in, the following may occur

  • The body system may kill all the TB bacteria so that they become harmless to the person at that time or in the future
  • The TB bacteria may become active TB and causes TB ailment to a person
  • The TB causing bacteria may stay dormant or asleep in the body system and this is what described as latent TB

Someone having latent TB in their body system may not be sick at all and they do not have the capability to transmit the TB to other people. Whenever the bacteria wakes up in the body system causing the disease it becomes active TB. Latent Tb can be cured and can be treated to stop the condition from being active.

Does Latent Tb Have Any Symptoms?

A person with latent TB does not have signs of the condition and they are healthy looking. At the same time, it is not possible to transmit TB to others.

Latent TB can only be identified to be present in the body system of a person by having a blood test or TB skin test done. The condition if detected can be cured by using one or two prescriptions over three to six months.

Precautions should be taken by TB patient to ensure that the spread of the disease is controlled, such as coughing etiquette. People who are not being treated for the disease should not cough openly, this helps in checking the bacteria released into the air. One should cover their mouths and noses with a tissue or handkerchief.

Airborne precautions can also be done to prevent the transmission of the bacteria which is airborne.

Learn More about Positive and Negative TB Skin Test

Latent TB Treatment


The drug for the treatment of TB is known as Chemoprophylaxis, which mainly minimizes the effects of the first stage of active TB happening in persons with latent TB bacteria.


Isoniazid is also used to stop latent TB from being active TB or TB ailment. Isoniazid works in the same way as BCG vaccine, it is mostly for protecting people from TB instead of preventing the spread of disease between people.

Isoniazid is supposed to be taken by patients for a period of six months, but this is not possible as many patients fail to adhere to this, and from failure to stick to such many patients who are supposed to benefit from its use do not.


A patient can also be put on antibiotic prescription to treat latent TB, a combination drug made up of rifampicin and isoniazid for a period of three months in a form of tablets known as Rifinah.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends the use of rifapentine (RPT), rifampin (RIF), and isoniazid (INH) as treatment regimens for latent TB infection. They have also suggested testing of the masses that are at a high rate of being infected. Once this is done the health practitioners give the best and appropriate treatment plan while ensuring that those affected follow the treatment fully.

Learn More about IGRA Test For Tuberculosis

Side Effects of Latent Tb Treatment

As with most of the prescriptions, latent TB treatment comes with a couple of effects. Some are not serious while others may turn out to be extremely serious. One may have effects such as the following which depends on the medication they are on

On Rifinah ( Combination of Rifampicin and Isoniazid ) – The tears, saliva, urine, and body fluids having an orange stain which is not harmful but for those who use contact lenses it may cause the stain to them. One may experience symptoms like one who has flu, have periods of problems, birth control of hormonal nature become less effective. Sometime individual may have a numb or tingling feeling, rashes or irritation, or even diarrhea.

On Isoniazid – One may experience a tingling or numb sensation, have rashes. Also, they may feel sick and have diarrhea.

Medication to treat latent TB rarely leads to jaundice which is the turning yellow of the skin or eyes. Both Isoniazid and Rifinah may lead to problems of one’s eyesight if this happens one need to stop taking the tablets and talk to their doctor as soon as possible.

How Long Does Latent TB Treatment Take?

The period is determined with the medication the patient if taking. For example, Isoniazid is supposed to be taken by patients for a period of six months.

The treatment for latent TB is very short when compared to the treatment of active TB. It also involves the use of less medication. This is a good reason for one to get treatment for latent TB bacteria while still not sick and before it wakes up.

If a person follows their treatment schedule as prescribed to them by the doctor, the risk they are at of falling sick with active TB is very low. A person may be exposed to the bacteria once more while breathing, though the chances are very minimal for many people.

The most evident signs that a person is suffering from active TB and they need to check their GP include, having a persistent cough that goes on for at least three weeks or more, having high temperature or fever, losing weight, having no appetite and having excess fatigue.


Feeling healthy is a nice thing but some the feeling maybe deceiving as we have seen, some ailment maybe in our body yet we don’t know, this calls for a frequent check up to ascertain if actually, we are well.

Latent TB is some of the ailment which does not show any sign. If found to have the bacteria doctor should weigh in the pros and cons of starting the treatment to that individual as there are side effects of latent TB treatment, especially people older than 65 have a high risk of developing liver damage due to the usage of isoniazid drug.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad

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