Treatment of latent tuberculosis infection: An update


  • The Authors: Dr Philip LoBue is the Associate Director for Science of the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is responsible for oversight of the division's research projects, which address epidemiological, clinical and operational aspects of tuberculosis prevention and control. Dr Menzies is a Professor, and Director of Respiratory Medicine, and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University, Canada. He has an active research programme in the clinical and epidemiologic aspects of tuberculosis.


Philip LoBue, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mail Stop E-10, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA. Email:


Isoniazid (INH) has been the mainstay of treatment of latent tuberculosis infection for almost 50 years. The currently recommended preferred regimen is 9 months daily self-administered INH (9H); this has efficacy of more than 90% if completed properly. Unfortunately, INH is associated with serious adverse events, including hepatotoxicity. Although risk factors for this complication are well established, allowing for better selection of candidates for therapy, this complication still occurs, and is occasionally fatal. Hence close follow up of patients is necessary, increasing the cost and complexity of treatment. This problem, plus the lengthy duration, results in poor acceptance by patients and providers, and poor adherence by patients. As a result, many preventable cases of tuberculosis continue to occur, and the public health impact of latent tuberculosis infection treatment is suboptimal. These problems have spurred interest in finding shorter, safer and cheaper alternative regimens, with similar efficacy. Of the many regimens that have been examined, 2 months of rifampin and pyrazinamide has excellent efficacy—in experimental studies in mice and randomized trials, largely in HIV-infected persons. However, while the safety of 2 months of rifampin and pyrazinamide appears acceptable in HIV-infected persons and children, in non-HIV-infected adults this regimen is associated with an unacceptably high rate of severe liver toxicity. Three to four months of INH and rifampin has had equivalent effectiveness as 6 months INH in several randomized trials. However, completion of therapy and toxicity has been the same as with INH—possibly because two drugs are taken rather than one. The fourth commonly studied regimen is 4 months rifampin. This has been found to have significantly better completion than 9H, with significantly less toxicity, especially hepatotoxicity. However, only one trial has evaluated efficacy and effectiveness of mono-rifampin therapy. In this trial, 3 months rifampin had somewhat better efficacy than either 3 months of isoniazid and rifampin (3HR) or 6 months isoniazid. Two large scale trials are ongoing; one is comparing efficacy and effectiveness of 9H with 4 months rifampin (both daily and self-administered), while the second, which is nearing completion, compares daily self-administered 9H with 3 months directly observed once weekly INH combined with rifapentine. The results of these two trials will likely shape future recommendations substantially.