Treatment of Tuberculosis


Responsibility for Successful Treatment

The overall goals for treatment of tuberculosis are (1) to cure the individual patient, and (2) to minimize the transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to other persons. Thus, successful treatment of tuberculosis has benefits both for the individual patient and the community in which the patient resides. For this reason the prescribing physician, be he/she in the public or private sector, is carrying out a public health function with responsibility not only for prescribing an appropriate regimen but also for successful completion of therapy. Prescribing physician responsibility for treatment completion is a fundamental principle in tuberculosis control. However, given a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, oversight of treatment may be shared between a public health program and a private physician.

Organization and Supervision of Treatment

Treatment of patients with tuberculosis is most successful within a comprehensive framework that addresses both clinical and social issues of relevance to the patient. It is essential that treatment be tailored and supervision be based on each patient’s clinical and social circumstances (patient-centered care). Patients may be managed in the private sector, by public health departments, or jointly, but in all cases the health department is ultimately responsible for ensuring that adequate, appropriate diagnostic and treatment services are available, and for monitoring the results of therapy.

It is strongly recommended that patient-centered care be the initial management strategy, regardless of the source of supervision. This strategy should always include an adherence plan that emphasizes directly observed therapy (DOT), in which patients are observed to ingest each dose of antituberculosismedications, to maximize the likelihood of completion of therapy. Programs utilizingDOTas the central element in a comprehensive, patientcentered approach to case management (enhanced DOT) have higher rates of treatment completion than less intensive strategies. Each patient’s management plan should be individualized to incorporate measures that facilitate adherence to the drug regimen. Such measures may include, for example, social service support, treatment incentives and enablers, housing assistance, referral for treatment of substance abuse, and coordination of tuberculosis services with those of other providers.

Recommended Treatment Regimens

The recommended treatment regimens are, in large part, based on evidence from clinical trials and are rated on the basis of a system developed by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The rating system includes a letter (A, B, C, D, or E) that indicates the strength of the recommendation and a roman numeral (I, II, or III) that indicates the quality of evidence supporting the recommendation (Table 1).


* Reprinted by permission from Gross PA, Barrett TL, Dellinger EP, Krause PJ, Martone WJ, McGowan JE Jr, Sweet RL, Wenzel RP. Clin Infect Dis 1994;18:421.

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