The TB Vaccine
The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can keep some people from getting TB. However, while the vaccine is effective in preventing terrible childhood versions of the disease, it is not effective in preventing adult TB.
The people in this picture live in South Africa. Because South Africa has the highest prevalence of TB in the world, BCG is given to all children in South Africa immediately after they are born.
Treating Latent TB
Sometimes a person with latent TB is treated to kill the TB bacteria and prevent the person from getting active (symptomatic) TB. For latent TB, the treatment is usually the drug isoniazid, taken for nine months.
Antibiotics, like the ones shown in this photograph from the Thakkar Bappa health clinic in India, are used to treat TB. The “first line” of treatment for TB is a combination of four medications—isoniazid, rifampicin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. Health care workers will monitor this treatment, checking to make sure that there are no resistant bacteria.
If resistant bacteria are found, other medicines may be prescribed. These so-called “second line” medications are often expensive and have more pronounced side effects.
Isoniazid and rifampicin will not cure MDR-TB, so a “cocktail” of medications is prescribed. Usually, the cocktail contains at least four medicines, including the first-line medications that the bacteria are not resistant to and some second-line medications. Treatment of MDR-TB can last up to a year and a half to two years or even longer. Treatment is not always successful in MDR-TB and many people eventually die of the disease. Even scarier, a new form of TB has emerged: extensive drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). XDR-TB is resistant to all of the first line medicines and three or more of the second line medicines. It is much more expensive to treat MDR-TB and XDR-TB. Here, a girl gets a check up at a hospital in Balti, Moldova that treats patients with TB, MDR-TB and XDR-TB.