Commentary - TB treatment can be shortened for most children: Study


In spring 2022 the World Health Organization did release the new guidelines (module 5) for the shorter (4 month) regimen for 3-month- to 16-year-olds with nonsevere pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) limited to one lobe that is also smear-negative and at least presumed to be due to drug-susceptible M. tuberculosis . This regimen is NOT for children with clinically significant airway obstruction, cavitary disease, miliary TB, complex pleural effusion, or peripheral lymph node involvement. The newly recommended regimen consists of 8 weeks as an “intensive phase” (isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol, per local guidance) followed by 8 weeks of a “continuation phase” (isoniazid and rifampin only). Of note, the Turkova study had shown nearly identical adverse event and adherence rates – 8% and 94% – for both the short- and traditional-length regimens. The onerous multidrug treatment of uncomplicated TB in most children has become less onerous.

Caveat: The newly recommended 4-month schedule (March 2022) of traditional TB drugs is not to be confused with rifapentine-moxifloxacin–based 4-month regimen recommended by the WHO in June 2021 (CDC added guidance February 2022). This rifapentine-based regimen had been okayed for patients 12 years or older weighing at least 40 kg and also with drug-susceptible pulmonary TB, but no extrapulmonary involvement.
The new shorter regimen shows the value of trials in non-U.S. countries. The careful work in Africa and India has borne fruit that makes things easier for families, providers, and public health organizations.

Christopher J. Harrison, MD, is professor, University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine, department of medicine, infectious diseases section, Kansas City. He has no financial conflicts of interest.

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