Tuberculosis Home > Drug-Resistant TB

A patient may have drug-resistant TB (tuberculosis) if their tuberculosis cannot be treated by one or more of the standard tuberculosis medicines. Some people may even have multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a condition in which the tuberculosis bacteria become resistant to two or more of the most important medicines: isoniazid and rifampin. Those infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis face more complications and will have to stay on medication for a much longer period of time.

What Is Drug-Resistant TB?

Some people with tuberculosis (TB) do not get better with tuberculosis treatment because their disease is caused by a TB strain that is resistant to one or more of the standard tuberculosis medicines. This is known as drug-resistant TB.
 

Who Does It Affect?

Drug-resistant TB is more common in people who:
 
  • Have spent time with someone with drug-resistant TB
  • Do not take their medicine regularly
  • Do not take all of their medicine as prescribed
  • Develop active TB again, after having taken TB medicine in the past
  • Come from areas where drug-resistant TB is common.
     

Multidrug-Resistant TB

Sometimes the tuberculosis bacteria become resistant to two or more of the most important medicines: isoniazid (INH) and rifampin (RIF). This is called multidrug-resistant TB. This is a very serious problem. People with multidrug-resistant TB must be treated with several antibiotics every day for up to two years. The bacteria must respond to at least three of these other antibiotics. These medicines are not as good as the usual medicines for TB, and they may cause more side effects. Also, most people with multidrug-resistant TB must see a TB expert who can closely observe their treatment to make sure it is working.
 
Even with this treatment, between four and six out of 10 patients with multidrug-resistant TB will die, which is the same rate seen with TB patients who are not treated.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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