How is drug resistant TB treated?

If the patient has multidrug-resistant (MDR) or extensively drug-resistant (XDR) – TB he/she is treated with a combination of five or six drugs. Treatment usually lasts for two years.

What is drug resistant TB?

Inappropriate or incorrect use of anti-TB drugs can cause drug resistance. This means that initially drug sensitive TB is treated with only one or two drugs or the treatment is too short or the treatment has been interrupted many times. Disease caused by resistant TB bacteria fails to respond to conventional, standard anti-TB drugs. Resistant tuberculosis may be transmitted in a similar way as drug sensitive TB.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, MDR-TB, is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful, first-line anti-TB drugs. Extensively drug-resistant TB, XDR-TB, is a form of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis that responds to even fewer available medicines, including the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs.

Multidrug-resistant TB is found all over the world. More than half of these cases are in reported in India, China and the former Soviet Union. In Finland there are under ten new drug resistant TB cases annually.

May I get pregnant while I am being treated for TB?

It is advised to avoid getting pregnant while being treated for TB. TB medication affects also the fetus, and some of the medicines are not safe during pregnancy. A woman in fertile age who has TB disease should discuss with her doctor to find a suitable method for birth control during TB treatment. The effectiveness of contraceptive pills weakens due to TB medication and you cannot rely on them as a birth control method during the TB treatment.

When can I restart sports activities?

TB is associated with fatigue, which gradually disappears as the person gets better. At the beginning of the treatment it is necessary to rest. Walking daily at a slow pace is possible as soon as you feel strong enough to go out. Your doctor will give you more specific instructions on how to step up physical exercise.

Can TB disease cause permanent damage in my body?

Most patients will be completely cured. If the start of the treatment has been delayed and TB has caused large damage for example in lungs, it is possible that the body will not recover totally. Sometimes it is necessary to make an operation to accomplish cure in severe TB disease.

Is TB curable?

TB disease can be cured with modern TB medication when started early enough.
It is more difficult to treat drug resistant TB because of lack of effective drugs. Two out of three persons who have drug resistant TB are cured when they get a long two-year treatment for TB.